New York Islanders (28-21-10) 66 Pts @ Montreal Canadiens (32-20-8) 72 pts
When: February 23rd, 2107
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC
Time: 7:30 PM EST
TV: MSG+ (Brendan Burke, Butch Goring)
Radio: 660 AM, 101.9 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM and WRCN 103.9 FM (Chris King, Greg Picker)
The Islanders begin the second leg of their nine game road trip this evening, as they journey to Montreal to take on the Atlantic Division leading Canadiens. The Isles enter the game in an unfamiliar position for the 2-16-17 season; they hold the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Last night was a gift to the Islanders and their fans as all three games had a playoff race impact, and all three went the Isles’ way. Philadelphia, Boston, and Florida all lost, thereby giving the Islanders possession of the final Wild Card spot in the East. Of course with 23 games remaining, the only thing it means is that the Isles know they have climbed out of a deep hole to be where they want to be. Playoff berths are not given out in February, but there’s something to be said for the way this team has come back, and made believers out of even the fans that are hardest to impress.
In a somewhat unusual scenario, the Islanders can actually fall out of the eight spot with a loss due to the fact that Boston has one more ROW in what would then be the same amount of games played. Should the teams finish tied in ROW, the Isles hold the tiebreakers against both teams. But, the Islanders are not focused on losing. They are focused on beating the Canadiens, a team they have historically had a lot of trouble with. The two teams have split their first two meetings of the season, with the Isles taking the last meeting in Brooklyn almost a month ago.
The Islanders will be without the services of Cal Clutterbuck, who is day-to-day with a recurring lower-body injury. He did skate this morning though, so that is a good sign. Coach Doug Weight told reporters after the game on Tuesday that Cal just did not look right in the second, and they were just being cautious with him. The team will also be missing Casey Cizikas who was put on IR with what is believed to be a broken hand suffered in the Isles’ 3-1 win against Detroit on Tuesday.
In their places, the Islanders will go with Stephen Gionta and Bracken Kearns. The latter will go with jersey number 38, a number he wore last year in his brief stint with the Islanders. They will be part of a re-formed fourth line with Nikolay Kulemin.
“He’s had a great year. The great thing about Bracken is that he’s a pro. He’s been around. He’s had some stints in the NHL and played well,” Doug Weight said. “A smart hockey player, a heady hockey player and can play with some edge.”
“I know the team’s playing well up here and hopefully I can come up here and fill a role,” Kearns said. “I need to be responsible out there, play on an edge and pretty much anything I can do to help the team win.”