The Predators kick off a back-to-back today at noon, yes NOON, against the NY Islanders. Nashville is riding high right now and keeping pace with the ultra-competitive Western Conference winning four in a row and 7 out of their last 8.
The Islanders are also on the eve of a back-to-back set playing Washington Tuesday night. The Islanders are going through some tough times only winning 2 out of their last 5 games and losing their supposed “top goaltender” Rick DiPietro to season ending surgery and their oft-times trusty backup Al Montoya to a concussion.
Since it is a back-to-back for both teams, it is expected that Lindback will start for the Predators and Kevin Poulin will be between the pipes for the Islanders. A battle of the backups on Long Island.
This Year’s Series: N/A
Looking at the Islanders: The huge gaping glitch in the Islanders system is defense, especially the 5 on 5 play. Looking through their stats, there are only 3 players with a positive +/- rating. Even John Tavares who leads the Islanders with 42 points is a -1 and PA Parenteau who leads the Islanders in assists is -5.
Between the pipes is another matter altogether. The Islanders have sought the help of 5 different goaltenders this year. Montoya and DiPietro are the only goalies with a winning record and that is by one game.
Looking at the Predators: Sergei Kostitsyn is shooting the puck and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Kostitsyn has 5 goals on 7 shots since Jan. 1st. going 1 for 13 in the ten games prior. Every player is chipping in, especially the third line of Bourque/Spaling/Tootoo combining for 9 points in the last 5 games.
Rinne has been stellar between the posts. Case in point, after a shaky start against the Colorado Avalanche in Nashville, Rinne shut it down the rest of the game and the Predators rallied back to win it in overtime 3-2. Rinne also held one of the league’s elite offenses to just 2 goals in Nashville’s win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
For the Islanders to win: Use the weaponry that they have at their disposal and go up on Nashville early. Tavares is dangerous but so are the supporting cast of Parenteau, Moulson, Grabner and Okposo. If the Islanders can jump out quick on Nashville and rattle Lindback, expect the Islanders to skate away and use their youth and speed to grab two points.
If Poulin does get the nod, look for him to play at another level knowing that he can be the permanent backup for a team that has had a merry-go-round of goalies on the year. Defensive personnel also has to start turning things around and getting the puck going the other way. Leaders such as Staios, Jurcina and above all Mark Streit need to right that part of the Islanders game with a quickness.
For the Predators to win: Simply put, just keep riding the wave. The offense is clicking on almost every line and the defense is finding new ways to befuddle their opponents (like the Ellis hip check on Simmonds). The Predators don’t have nearly the high-octane output of the Islanders when it comes to scoring, but the ability to roll four solid lines and wear down their opponent has been Trotz’ go-to weapon so far this year.
Lindback needs a good win and a good showing to prove that he belongs in Nashville backing up what many deem as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. Lindback has a way of stepping up for games and the team also seems to step up for Lindback when he needs it most rather than relying on Pekka Rinne to bail them out. Expect Lindback to play with confidence and drive in relief of Rinne for the two-day double-header.
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Stay HardCore, friends