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Let’s examine Islanders’ struggling goalies

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In a bigger picture sense, Wednesday stands as a victory lap for the New York Islanders, a franchise celebrating the successful bid to land a new arena at Belmont Park, bringing the team back to Long Island.

Scroll the team’s feed you’ll see enough happy faces and quotes, you’d almost expect Daniel Bryan to show up to lead a “Yes!” chant himself.

Still, let’s not forget that, even with a great one-two punch of scoring lines, the Islanders have dropped games here and there, including Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. If the score itself didn’t tip you off, the main culprit has been poor goaltending. You could reasonably argue that the Isles have suffered from the worst netminding in the NHL so far:

On paper, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak might not rank as “elites,” yet you could ask for a worse platoon. Greiss carries a solid .913 save percentage for his career, while Halak is even better at .916. To see them combine (with a near-equal number of starts) for a retro sub-90 percent mark is troubling.

It must be ratchet up the concern that Greiss (signed through 2019-20, .883 save percentage) is struggling more than Halak (expiring contract, .905 save percentage). Either way, it has been a problem for an Islanders team that’s otherwise providing reasons for optimism.

Head coach Doug Weight didn’t throw his goalies under the bus after last night’s loss, even though he seems confounded by their struggles:

Allow me this question, though: are they, to some extent, set up to fail?

I encourage a team with some firepower like the Islanders to be aggressive; the Penguins and other teams have embraced that mindset to often-impressive results. Even so, taking risks almost always means exposing yourself to mistakes, and the Isles are a double-edged sword.

According to Natural Stat Trick’s numbers, the Islanders have allowed 305 high-danger chances at even strength, the sixth-highest total in the NHL so far. That sounds bad, but it might just be the nature of the beast, as they’ve generated 318 high-danger chances of their own, good for seventh in the league.

Let’s not forget that this is Weight’s first full season as an NHL head coach, as he took over in the interim last season.

Winning the chances battles and setting up a difference-making system isn’t easy for any bench boss, let alone someone who’s fairly new to the gig. Perhaps Weight might find a better way to leverage his team’s strengths while painting over weaknesses as time goes on?

One other option

Naturally, systems and chances can only explain so many struggles for goalies. The buck ultimately stops with Greiss and Halak. In Halak’s case, motivation really shouldn’t be an issue, at least if he wants to try to avoid too big of a drop in pay after this season.

(He’s almost certainly going to have a lighter wallet going forward.)

There is one other consideration for GM Garth Snow: what if he makes a tweak in net?

One interesting idea, albeit somewhat outside-the-box, would be to propose a “trading of problems” in net. Perhaps the Detroit Red Wings would send the Islanders Petr Mrazek for Halak and some sort of sweetener, even if it likely wouldn’t come at the price Detroit hopes for in a more traditional player-for-futures deal.

Now, there’s a strong chance that one or both of Greiss and Halak will improve as the season goes along. Look at 2016-17 for Halak alone: he went from being sent to the AHL to nearly powering an Islanders push to the playoffs. If anything, the guy is at his best when people disregard his chances (just consider how unlikely his run with the Montreal Canadiens really was). Greiss, too, has shown reasonable potential to be a starting goalie in the NHL.

Still, Weight and Snow should both keep their eyes open regarding ways to make this better, whether the goaltending improvements come from within or from a bolder move.

Hey, they might just keep a certain superstar happy if they hit the right buttons and make a run of it in the East. Doing so would be a lot better with the goaltending they expected to get, right?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

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Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott