The New York Islanders don’t want to be remembered as the team that held their own against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they want to be the squad that eliminates them.
Pittsburgh is up 2-1 series lead heading into tonight’s contest (7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but Islanders forward Frans Nielsen feels his team has one key advantage that can push them over the top.
“We’ve felt they have a lot of guys on their team that can’t skate with us,” Nielsen said, according to ESPN.
He added, “I think when we’re moving our feet, they’ve got guys up front, on the [defense] that we can see are struggling a little bit. We’ve gotta skate with ’em. If we stop skating, we don’t have a chance.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby noted that the Islanders have “probably carried the play a little bit more.” He also thinks that his team has hurt themselves by allowing too many turnovers.
The Islanders certainly came out strong in Game 3 on Sunday, but the Penguins were superb in power-play situations. Pittsburgh’s edge in special teams was the difference in that match, but if the Islanders play a more disciplined game tonight, then perhaps they can even this series.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.