Pregame: First Place Islanders Host Dallas Stars

The Islanders host the Dallas Stars Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum as they look to win their second game in a row coming off a thrilling victory Thursday night in Boston.

Reports today out of the morning skate indicate that Chad Johnson will get the nod in net tonight in the hopes of carrying momentum forward after his third period heroics against the Bruins.  The Islanders won't admit if there's a goalie controversy brewing, but it's difficult not to ask the question with number one goalie Jaroslav Halak struggling to start the season.  Johnson has posted a .918 save percentage so far against Halak's .893 clip.  While this is probably a temporary move only, starting Johnson tonight is the correct decision.

The other piece of good news to come out of this morning's skate is the return of forward Mikhail Grabovski who has missed the last three games with a concussion.  According to Newsday's Arthur Staple he will likely start on a line with Frans Nielsen and pal Nikolai Kulemin.  Grabovski's return comes at the perfect time as Josh Bailey broke his hand against Boston and is out indefinitely.

Tonight's matchup pits a couple of teams with 10 points against each other.  The Islanders will look to maintain their position atop the Metropolitan Division while the Stars try to sweep their mini two-game road trip through the metropolitan area.  Dallas beat the Devils 3-2 in a shootout Friday night and is currently two points behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division.

The Stars bring a potent offensive attack to the Coliseum and the Islanders will have their hands full trying to contain the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza.  All three are off to fast starts this season with Seguin leading the way with 11 points so far (five goals, six assists), tying him with John Tavares at second in the league in scoring.  Kari Lehtonen got the start Friday night for the Stars, so it's likely the Islanders will see backup Anders Lindback between the pipes Saturday.  The Islanders last faced Lindback in 2012/13 as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning with the Islanders winning both matchups with him in net.  However, the Stars will only be as successful as its fourth-ranked offense tonight.

The Islanders will have to try and contain that offense without the services of Travis Hamonic who will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury.  Lubomir Visnovsky made his season debut against the Bruins Thursday night and will hopefully have the rust shaken off after missing time with injury.

The Islanders penalty kill, while perfect over its last two games (five chances), will have their hands full with the Stars' power play that ranks seventh in the league and was one for two last night in New Jersey.  Defenseman Trevor Daley already has three power play goals in seven games and the Islanders would be wise to keep an extra body shaded in his direction when on the kill.

The Islanders hope to keep the trend against Dallas from last season when they won both games by a combined score of 11-5.  Tavares leads the team with 11 points, followed by fellow first liner Kyle Okposo with 9.  The Islanders are going to need more from Brock Nelson who has cooled off since his torrid start and has only picked up one assist in his last four games.

Prediction: the Islanders get the benefit of playing a road team that played the maximum last night who appears to be going with the backup tonight. While their offense has been stellar, Dallas is middle of the pack in goals allowed, and aren't an overly physical team, an element that would seem to favor the rested Islanders.  Expect an up and down skating game with lots of chances tonight but ultimately the home team gets the last laugh with a 5-4 regulation victory.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mikepac23 for my Islander opinions and keep up with @TCLIsles for Islander news and analysis.