February 20th, 2012 – Senators (30-22-8) @ Islanders (25-25-8)
With their backs against the wall, the Islanders were able to pull out another crucial victory to remain in the playoff conversation by defeating Carolina 4-3 Saturday night off a bounce back night from John Tavares. They are now six points behind the Maple Leafs who were pummeled by the Canucks 6-2. Monday afternoon they host a President’s Day showdown with the Ottawa Senators for a chance to be a game over .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 back on October 20th.
But most importantly, it’s a chance to be within four points of a playoff spot in ages as well. A win over the Sens could make that happen at least until the puck drops Tuesday night in Toronto when the Leafs host New Jersey. The problem though, is that any time the Islanders have had the opportunity to reach these goals, they’ve fallen short. These are two points the Islanders must collect with their brutal March schedule around the corner. It can also keep the seventh seeded Senators within striking distance should Ottawa falter between now and season’s end.
The Senators haven’t played since a 6-2 victory over Florida last Wednesday to allow the teams around them to burn some games in hand. Not long ago the Isles had four games in hand, but now only have two. The Sens have bounced back from their seven game losing streak to go 3-0-1 in their last four. The revitalized Jason Spezza has five goals and three assists over a five game point streak, and is now fifth in scoring overall with 63 points. Defenseman Erik Karlsson has five points in his last three games.
This will only be the second meeting of the season between the two teams, and the second of three for the month of February. These games will go a long way towards shaping the playoff picture and are critical for both teams. The Isles took the first game of the series 2-1 in overtime back on February 3rd when Mark Eaton scored a surprising game-winning goal in the extra frame. A victory for the Isles would also extend an overall winning streak over the Sens to four games.
Craig Anderson is slated to be in goal for the Sens while the Islanders have yet to name a starter. My guess is the Isles will award Kevin Poulin with a second consecutive start after his impressive win over the Hurricanes. While the loss against St. Louis was hardly his fault, Al Montoya seems to have struggled a bit since yielding the majority of starts to Evgeni Nabokov and will likely serve as backup. An update of Nabokov’s status with the flu has yet to come, so we’ll assume for now he will not be in the lineup.
- This game will mark Zenon Kenopka’s first return to the Coliseum since being let go from the Isles last summer
- Craig Anderson has a 2-4-2 overall record against the Isles with a 3.47 GAA and .901 SV%
- Brian Rolston is still inexplicably in the Islanders lineup
Hockey This Week
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