Islanders at Maple Leafs
The New York Islanders earned a split of their first two home games after nearly blowing a four-goal lead in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Monday. Next up for the Islanders is their first road trip of the season, which starts Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but their biggest news this week happened off the ice. Disgruntled prospect Nino Niederreiter requested a trade through his agent after the team decided more time in the American Hockey League would help his development. Niederreiter, who played 55 NHL games last season and leads the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers with 19 goals and 36 points in 39 games, was selected fifth overall by the Islanders in 2010.
Toronto opened its first set of games on consecutive nights Wednesday by defeating the Penguins 5-2 in Pittsburgh. Defenseman Jake Gardiner returned from a concussion suffered in the AHL and goaltender James Reimer made his first start of the season, stopping 28 shots to earn the win. Toronto’s second line of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk, which didn’t record a point in their first two games, accounted for three of the five goals and totaled eight points against the Penguins.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus (New York), Leafs TV (Toronto)
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (1-1-0): Evgeni Nabokov has started both of New York’s contests thus far, but with three games in the next four nights, Rick DiPietro is expected to start either against the Maple Leafs on Thursday or in Boston on Friday. Michael Grabner, who regressed to 20 goals last season after scoring 34 as a rookie, scored against the Lightning and led the team with eight shots. John Tavares, who topped the Islanders with 81 points last season, has two assists and is minus-1 in his first two games.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (2-1-0): Wednesday's victory was costly as right wing Joffrey Lupul suffered a fractured right forearm and will be out indefinitely. Lupul was injured in the second period, when he was struck in the forearm with a shot by teammate Dion Phaneuf. Ben Scrivens started the first two games for Toronto, going 1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Nazem Kadri is the only Maple Leaf with points in all three games so far this season. Kadri scored against Montreal and Buffalo and assisted on Clarke MacArthur’s goal against Pittsburgh. Phil Kessel fired five shots on goal Wednesday and leads the team with 15 in the first three games but has yet to score this season.
1. Islanders D Lubomir Visnovsky, suspended by the team for failing to report at the start of training camp, allegedly is planning to join the team in mid-February after his son undergoes surgery.
2. The Maple Leafs won three of four meetings with the Islanders last season but lost the final game 5-2 in Toronto.
3. Toronto was 4-11-2 on the second night of back-to-back games last season.
PREDICTION: Islanders 5, Maple Leafs 3.