Monday, October 10, 2011

NYI vs. Minnesota Wild Game Preview: Can the Islanders Finally Break Loose?

The New York Islanders will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing performance on opening night, when they take on the Minnesota Wild this afternoon, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

On opening night, the Isles faced a Florida Panther team that had been given a dramatic facelift this summer. The Wild have a new look too, albeit on a smaller scale.

Last season, it didn't take much to beat these guys. You just had to be able to find the back of the net, because Minnesota sure couldn't.

Those days are over.

With the arrival of snipers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the Wild now boast a pair of fantastic scorers. Throw in slick passer Mikko Koivu, one of the more underrated players in the NHL, and it doesn't take much to realize what you're up against.

Fortunately, the Isles have their own collection of offensive stalwarts, though you wouldn't know it after watching this team's season opener.

Al Montoya gets the nod for the second straight game, a bit of a surprise, I must say. He is likely the most talented goaltender on the roster, though you'd think the Islanders would rotate and give DiPietro and Nabokov starts as well. I'm sure they'll get their reps, but Al has earned this one.


If you thought what happened against Florida was bad, an encore performance will spell disaster in this one. It's one thing to give David Booth and Kris Versteeg all day to set up in the offensive zone, it's quite another to give all that time and space to Heatley and Setoguchi. The defense needs to step up their game, otherwise there won't be much of one.

Players to Watch

John Tavares

JT looked real sharp against Florida and he'll be facing a Minnesota team that's simply not as talented defensively as the Panthers. He was able to create opportunities with his prime puckhandling ability, deking through defenders as if they were traffic cones. If he keeps that going today he'll get on the scoresheet and probably won't come off it for the next decade or two.

Kyle Okposo

Okposo had his moments on opening night, and he'll be looking for more against Minnesota. He's one of those players who are infinitely more dangerous when frustrated. He shanked a couple of shots of the post Saturday night, and KO will do everything in his power to make sure he gets nothin' but net this time around. I'm expecting a strong game out of him.

Mark Streit

The pressure is on for Streit to help get this offense back in sync, especially on the powerplay. Look for the captain to be even more involved in the rush and more agressive than he was last game. He's a premiere two-way defenseman in this league, and I believe he'll show that today.

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter: @nyifaceoff360

Comments are welcome.


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