Massive game in Brooklyn on Saturday night when the New York Islanders will be hosting the Boston Bruins in a key game in the Eastern Conference wild card race.
The day is already off to a bad start for the Bruins, losers of four in a row, when coach Bruce Cassidy announced that starting goaltender Tuukka Rask did not make the trip with the team and will not be available for the game. Anthon Khudobin will get the start in his place, while Zane McIntyre has been recalled from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.
Cassidy said that Rask is dealing with a lower body injury and is considered day-to-day.
Rask did not practice with the team on Friday.
It is a massive game as both teams enter the night tied in the standings with 82 points. But because the Islanders have played one fewer game, they currently occupy the second wild card spot. They are both just one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in what is now pretty much a three-team race for that spot. It is the last meeting of the season between the two teams (Boston does play Tampa Bay once more).
Overall it has been another frustrating season for Rask, whose .910 save percentage is currently the worst of his career. He has really struggled during the Bruins’ current four-game losing streak, giving up 15 goals during that stretch.
Khudobin, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a roll for the Bruins in his recent starts following a terrible start to the season. He has won each of his past four starts, allowing just eight goals.
The Islanders are coming off of a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh on Friday night against the Penguins with Jaroslav Halak making his return to the team and picking up the win.
Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.
The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.
Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.
The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.
However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.
Believe it or not, many people have an issue with Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang wearing number 66, but it sounds like former Penguins great Mario Lemieux isn’t one of them.
On Thursday, Lemieux made it clear that Ho-Sang using his number wasn’t an issue.
“I’m fine with it,” Lemieux said via a spokesperson, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s just a number. Number 4 and number 9 were worn by great players (Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, respectively), and they are not retired forever. Players can choose whatever number they want.”
Some see it as a sign of disrespect, but Ho-Sang has made it clear that that’s the last thing on his mind when he decided he wanted to wear Lemieux’s old number.
“It’s honoring [Lemieux] and just, I think a lot more people remember who he is now because they’re yelling at me about wearing the number, right? I think that’s cool too,” he told Newsday earlier this month. “There’s a lot of light being shined on an amazing player. By no means am I trying to be better than or trying to prove anything. For me, it’s definitely a tribute to a great player. If he asked me not to wear it, I’d definitely consider it, but I haven’t gotten any phone calls or anything. So for now I’m gonna wear it.”
Even though Lemieux has now given his blessing, don’t be surprised if Penguins fan are all over Ho-Sang during Friday’s game between the two teams at PPG Paints Arena.
Busy day in Brooklyn on the news front.
Just hours after recalling Jaroslav Halak from AHL Bridgeport, Newsday reported that forward Ryan Strome suffered a broken wrist, an injury that will likely end his season.
Strome, 23, suffered the injury during last night’s big 3-2 win over the Rangers. He exited after playing just nine minutes, and didn’t return.
Though he’s been something of a disappointment this season — he was parked as a healthy scratch under former head coach Jack Capuano — Strome still racked up 13 goals and 30 points in 69 games, averaging 14:36 TOI per night.
So it’s definitely a loss, and a fairly significant hole to fill.
Newsday’s Arthur Staple suggests that one of Shane Prince or Alan Quine will get the call to fill Strome’s up front. That could result in some line juggling and switching players from wing to the middle.
The Isles are just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and are back in action Friday for a big tilt against the Penguins.
The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.
Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.
It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.
With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.
Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.
As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.
The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.