Isles to park Conacher for first time this season


Cory Conacher has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Or, more accurately, the top line to the press box.

The diminutive forward, who started the year playing alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, will be dropped from the lineup tonight when the Isles take on the Kings in Los Angeles, replaced by Casey Cizikas. The decision comes after Conacher finished minus-1 in just over 13 minutes in Wendesday’s 3-2 OT win over Anaheim, and with him mired in a four-game pointless streak.

What’s more, Conacher hasn’t scored since a 4-3 win over Carolina on Oct. 11 — a stretch of 10 games.

Tonight’s scratch is a tough one for Conacher, who burst onto the scene during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign and finished sixth in Calder voting. Since then, he’s fallen out of favor in both Ottawa and Buffalo, but did manage to score a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Islanders in July.


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

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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


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


“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.”