Islanders vs. Maple Leafs 1/24/13: Isles Begin 5-Game Road Trip in Toronto

The New York Islanders kick off their first road trip of the season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. It will be the first of three meetings between the two teams during the shortened 48-game season. 

With healthy head coach Jack Capuano back behind the bench, the Isles came out on Monday afternoon with confidence and agility. They look to keep the momentum going tonight and pick up another two points. (Photo Credit: gbalogh/Flickr)

After falling to the New Jersey Devils in a well-fought home opener, the Isles bounced back to .500 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a battle of fisticuffs and an onslaught of offense, the Isles held on in the third period for a relieving 4-3 victory over the Bolts.

The Isles struggled against the Maple Leafs last season with a 1-2-1 record. Despite this stat, their last game was on March 20th at the Air Canada Centre where the Isles dominated the entire game and had a volatile third period to win it 5-2.

The Leafs defeated the Canadians on opening night of the season in Montreal. Coming back to Toronto for their home-opener, they fell to the Buffalo Sabres.

Image preview However, they ousted the Penguins in impressive fashion last night. Newly acquired forward James van Riemsdyk, despite going scoreless in his first two games with Toronto, netted two goals and added an assist to the 5-2 win over the Pens. (Photo Credit: katie spence/Flickr)

Despite winning the game, the Leafs suffered a loss of their own. During a second-period power play, captain Dion Phaneuf fired a slap shot that caught winger Joffrey Lupul and fractured his forearm.  

Lupul, who signed a 5-year contract extension with the Leafs just a few days ago, ranked second on the team last season next to Phil Kessel with 25 goals and 42 assists, in addition to being one of three Leafs to go to the All-Star Game. 

As of now, Lupul has no timetable to return to action. According to various reports, he will be re-evaluated today in Toronto. 

Although Lupul won't be dressed for tonight's game, this Leafs team should not be underestimated. Along with van Riemsdyk, Kessel and Phaneuf, the Leafs have plenty of talent to fill the gap.

Nikolai Kulemin, the Leaf's second-line center, had a career-high three assists in yesterdays win against the Penguins. Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski also picked up points, proving that an absent Lupul shouldn't affect the team's momentum. 

After beating the Boston Bruins last night in overtime, the New York Rangers have their first win, tying the Isles for points and third place in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers face the 0-3 Philadelphia Flyers tonight, giving the Isles more of an incentive to defeat the Maple Leafs and keep pace in this always-competitive division.

It is expected that Evgeni Nabakov will once again start in goal for the Islanders. Coming into tonight's game with a .907 save percentage, the 37 year old net-minder is 4-2-1 against the Maple Leafs in his career. 

The Islanders will also be looking for more scoring from Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic and John Tavares. Each of them have tallied two points in their first two games this season. 

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One Islander who should certainly start to heat up, especially tonight, is Matt Moulson. In twelve career games against the Maple Leafs, Moulson has scored seven goals including four on the power play. (Photo Credit: kkthemook/Flickr)

This will be an important matchup for the Islanders. Every point counts this season and with each division slowly but surely taking form, the Islanders have a chance to start an early streak to keep them in the race. 

The puck drops tonight at 7pm E/T. Let's Go Islanders! 

-T.J. Weber 

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