Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers at New York Islanders
Florida: 25-26-7 (57PTS)
New York Islanders: 22-30-7 (51PTS)
Season Series: 2-0-0
The Islanders host the Panthers in a Presidents' Day afternoon tilt. Florida is desperately trying to stay on the playoff bubble and advance on the teams in front of them while the Isles, who started the season poorly and sat in the league basement until coach Scott Gordon was fired and replaced with Jack Capuano. The Islanders have pulled themselves ahead of the Oilers and Senators and while they are in no danger of making the playoffs, they are playing for pride and winning games. A subplot in this series is Isles forward Michael Grabner. Grabner came to the Panthers from Vancouver as part of the Keith Ballard trade. Grabner had a bad training camp and was outplayed by off-season acquisition Michael Santorelli, among others. He was waived along with a few other players right before the start of the season as preparation to be sent to Rochester. While the others joined the Americans, Grabner was picked up by the Islanders and has gone on to score 25 goals, leading all NHL rookies and everyone on the Panthers' roster. Although Grabner himself has said that he didn't have a good camp or a good start with the Islanders this season, Dale Tallon's detractors have used it as evidence of his inability to manage his roster.
The Panthers won the first two meetings between the teams, but both were early in the season before the Islanders' coaching change. The Panthers will find a more challenging game in the last two meetings.
Saturday night, the Panthers held on for a 3-2 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goaltender Scott Clemmensen held the Panthers in the game, through a 4-on-3 Lightning power play in overtime and then stopped all three shots in the shootout. Michael Santorelli scored the tying goal for the Panthers and the winning goal in the shootout. The Islanders, for their part, shut out the Kings 3-0 at home. The shutout was in goalie Al Montoya's debut for the Islanders. Montoya was obtained last week from Phoenix. He was playing for the Coyotes' AHL club, the San Antonio Rampage.
There has been no announcement, but it seems likely that Scott Clemmensen has earned himself another start with his play last night. By contrast, Tomas Vokoun was not at his best Friday night against the Red Wings. Bryan McCabe returned from injury in Friday night's game and Steve Bernier, kept out Wednesday night with flu-like symptoms, came back Friday night. Joe Callahan and Kenndal McArdle, called up to replace Bernier Friday but who played in place of Hordichuk were returned to Rochester. DeBoer changed his lines again last night, playing David Booth and Jack Skille on Stephen Weiss' line and moving Cory Stillman back to the veteran line with Marty Reasoner and Radek Dvorak. Michael Santorelli played between Rostislav Olesz and Chris Higgins. The Panthers won, so DeBoer will probably start with these combinations.
At this point, practically every game is a must-win for the Panthers. They've beaten the Islanders twice this season, but the Isles have turned the offense on the last couple of weeks, scoring 9 against the Penguins and 7 against the Sabres while winning 7 of their last 10.
More from our Islanders cohorts at Lighthouse Hockey
Panthers vs Islanders coverage at SBNation.com