Tag: Cory Conacher

Brent Burns, Kyle Okposo

Sharks’ late surge powers them past Islanders

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The San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders spent most of Saturday’s contest tied, but the Sharks stepped up in the second half of the third period to earn a 3-1 victory.

After enduring a four-game losing streak, the Sharks have now come away with seven of a possible eight points.

Antti Niemi has played between the pipes for that recent stretch. He started the season in a battle for the starting gig with Alex Stalock and while that contest isn’t over, Niemi has done plenty lately to reassert himself as the Sharks’ top goaltender.

Logan Couture deserves a lot of credit for tonight’s win too as he was the one that finally broke the 1-1 tie at 11:50 of the second period.

James Sheppard chipped in an insurance goal less than four minutes later.

Although this was clearly a great night for San Jose, Jason Demers might find himself in the department of player safety’s sights. He delivered a check to the head of Cory Conacher in the third period and while there is a height difference there, Demers did appear to elevate his elbow:

Conacher temporarily left the game, but returned before its conclusion.

The Islanders have now dropped three straight games and are 6-5-0 this season.

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Islanders close out season series

Brent Burns, Jaroslav Halak
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the San Jose Sharks host the New York Islanders at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks enter November with a similar goal: avoid many of their pitfalls from October.

San Jose might be feeling a little better about things lately, as the Sharks just ended a three-game road trip with a 2-0-1 mark. That’s not to say that everything’s perfect (they’re still just 6-4-2 and two of those games went to shootouts), yet things look brighter than they did considering their recent four-game skid.

After starting the season with a four-game winning streak, the Islanders are stumbling lately. They’ve lost two games in a row by a combined score of 8-3 and have dropped four of six. They face a tough first half of November, too, as this is the second game of a five-game road trip against Western Conference teams.

Similar strengths and weaknesses

There are some interesting parallels between the two squads. Both boast offenses that can unleash torrents of shots, yet the Sharks and Islanders would likely acknowledge that they’ve been struggling to protect their own nets, as well.

In 10 games, the Islanders have allowed 36 goals while the Sharks ceded 34 in 12 contests. Some of the Isles struggles are on Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, though: the Islanders are out-chancing opponents by more than three shots per game (32.8 vs. 29.6).

Islanders search for answers

One would think that offense wouldn’t the biggest concern for Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, yet it appears that he’s done some line juggling in preparation for tonight’s game.

Brock Nelson will play on the wing with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome will center Anders Lee and Matt Martin while Cory Conacher gets knocked down to a grinding line, according to New York Newsday.

“We’ve given it 10 games; now we’re going to see what Brock can do up there,” Capuano said on Friday. “That’s also our first power-play unit, so it makes sense to try it five-on-five.”


Fans of explosive hockey might be disappointed to learn that the Sharks and Islanders will meet for the last time (barring a Stanley Cup Final series) in 2014-15 tonight. The Isles won the teams’ Oct. 16 meeting 4-3 via a shootout as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo dueled Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. That game came before both squads staggered through the rest of October, so it will be interesting to see if tonight’s action is any different.

There’s a pretty good chance it will be exciting, though.

Note: John Scott won’t be in the lineup tonight, so it sounds like there won’t be any attempted retribution for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski.

Video: Crosby, Tavares, Ovechkin enjoy red-hot starts

Sidney Crosby

So far, it appears as if Roberto Luongo is the only most noteworthy goalie to get pulled on Saturday (it’s still early, mind you), but there was a feeling a few other big names would be warming the bench after rough opening periods. Then again, maybe their coaches are just shrugging it off, as some NHL players might just be too much to contain.

Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist are enjoying some outstanding early chemistry, for one. The Pittsburgh Penguins raced out to a 3-0 lead as they befuddled Jonathan Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both forwards have a goal and assist so far, with Crosby’s PP tally impressing:

(Nice play there by Kris Letang, too.)

The Penguins ended up beating Toronto by a jersey-chucking 5-2 margin.

After being held off the scoresheet in the Washington Capitals’ OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Alex Ovechkin scored his first two goals of the season against the Boston Bruins. His first of 2014-15 is not just old footage of Ovechkin scoring from his favorite spot, in case you’re wondering.

Washington ended up blanking Boston 4-0 on Saturday.

New York Islanders captain John Tavares and new acquisition Johnny Boychuk are red-hot in their own right. Check out Tavares’ patently ridiculous assist to Cory Conacher:

Boychuk, meanwhile, already has two assists, while Brock Nelson isn’t exactly slouching for the Islanders, either. The Isles survived Jiri Tlusty’s hat trick and beat Carolina 4-3.

Finally, Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds now has two straight two-goal games. This one was a particular beauty:

Simmonds’ duo of tallies wasn’t enough for Philly, as the Flyers coughed up that 3-0 lead and lost 4-3 to Montreal via a shootout.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of players who are starting the season on fire, but these players are making their early opponents pretty miserable in these first few games.

Isles players agree — it’s ‘on’ them now

New York Islanders v Phoenix Coyotes

“We feel good about the group we have,” Kyle Okposo said. “It’s on us now.”

And it starts tonight in Carolina, where the New York Islanders — after a busy offseason of roster retooling by GM Garth Snow — will open their regular season against the injury-ravaged Hurricanes.

It’s the only game on the NHL schedule, so the spotlight will be all theirs.

Key additions to an Isles team that finished well back of a playoff position in 2013-14 include starting goalie Jaroslav Halak, forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Cory Conacher, plus Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.

“There’s good things happening here,” Boychuk told Newsday, despite the hurt he felt after being traded by the Bruins.

Granted, it hasn’t been all good things happening — yesterday it was reported that speedy winger Michael Grabner would be out indefinitely after undergoing sports hernia surgery. But that couldn’t put a dent in the optimism among Isles fans. At last glance, the cheapest ticket for Saturday’s home opener, also versus Carolina, was $91 at StubHub. This for a team that finished with the fifth-lowest average attendance (14,740) in the league last season.

As for Snow, well, he’s got a lot riding on his roster’s performance in 2014-15. Don’t forget that the Isles don’t have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft; that belongs to the Sabres now, as a result of last season’s Thomas Vanek trade (the first one). So there’s a nightmare scenario at play here, and it involves New York missing the playoffs and Buffalo drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel with the selection the Isles sent them (for a player the Isles weren’t even able to convince to stay).

Is that nightmare scenario likely? Nope. But it will remain a possibility until a playoff spot is clinched.

“Garth was pretty aggressive this summer and the message is that last season wasn’t good enough for anyone,” captain John Tavares said.

“We’ve been building for a long time and it’s on us now to take that next step.”

Conacher wins Tavares – Okposo sweepstakes (for now)

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders

After enjoying the luxury of lining John Tavares and Kyle Okposo up with strong wingers in Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson, the 2014-15 New York Islanders enter the season with a tough call to make in finding their dynamic duo a new running mate.

Do you go with a skilled but inexperienced player like Ryan Strome, lean toward the size route with someone like Anders Lee or Brock Nelson or maybe see if a promotion may finally get more out of a guy like Josh Bailey?

Considering how frequently NHL head coaches rummage through different combinations, it’s not wise to make too big a deal out of this, but New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports that Cory Conacher is primed to start on the top line with Tavares and Okposo.

Conacher’s big chance

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t qualified by the lowly Buffalo Sabres this offseason after the team claimed him off of waivers from the struggling Ottawa Senators late in 2013-14. Not bad for an under-sized player who will likely be doubted for the entirety of his NHL career (and might ultimately be know as “the other part of the Ben Bishop trade.”)

There’s some solid logic to giving the 24-year-old a shot, though. Despite the classic logic of “A fire hydrant can score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux,” not every player ends up being the right fit for excellent linemates.

Conacher began his NHL career with a flurry of activity, scoring nine points in six January games and 18 in his first 24 while serving as a great fit with Steven Stamkos. That happened in 2012-13, so it’s not like he’s that far from successes, and he was a scoring demon in the AHL to boot (80 points in 75 games with Norfolk in 2011-12, for one thing).

Seriously, just watch him fire home this shot after a great Tavares pass:

While it’s probably fair to assume that he’s somewhat responsible for his struggles since being traded from Tampa Bay in 2012-13, it’s plausible that he wasn’t always given the benefit of the doubt in Ottawa or Buffalo. This is obviously an enormous opportunity for Conacher to prove that he belongs as not just an NHL player, but maybe a top-six forward.

Here are Staple’s projected lines:

Grabovski and Kulemin split

One other interesting takeaway is that Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin seem primed to start on different lines. Also, if Staple is being literal with the way he’s lining up those players, that would mean Grabovski would be on the wing. That’s not totally out of left field considering his spin as a winger with Tavares and Okposo, yet most associate the solid possession player as a pivot.

Whether it’s at center or on the wing, it’s a little surprising to see Grabovski and Kulemin apart, as they seemed like great compliments to each other as solid defensive forwards.

That said, Nielsen often inspires “secret Selke”-type praise, so moving Kulemin with him isn’t exactly outrageous.

Circling back, these combinations could change as early as New York’s first moment of struggles for all we know. Maybe the greatest takeaway is that the Islanders now have a host of choices, which is a “dilemma” they’ve likely been craving for some time.