Isles Look To Fly Above The Red Wings Tonight At The Coliseum

The struggling New York Islanders (7-10-3) look to turn things around tonight with Evgeni Nabokov in goal against the visiting Detroit Red Wings (9-5-6). The Red Wings, now a new Eastern Conference opponent due to the alignment change, are facing the Isles for the first time this season after a 4-3 shootout loss last night to the Washington Capitals.

The Isles, who once sat second in the Metropolitan Division, currently sit in 6th, five points behind the second place Capitals and three points behind the third place Carolina Hurricanes.

An inability to hold gain leads and/or hold them has propelled the Islanders to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings (12th in the East) and has allowed their division rivals to surpass them.

Most recently, the Isles flopped a 2-0 lead against the L.A. Kings on Thursday night in the third period to a score of 3-2. The Isles came out in the final frame unmotivated, with many players stating afterwards that they were on their heels and did not do the things they needed to do in order to ensure a win, straying away from their game that they played so well through the first forty minutes.

Head coach Jack Capuano seemed to disagree with his players, stating that they had played a pretty good third period in the post-game press-conference with bad bounces going in favor of the Kings. This comment has caused a bit of a backlash from fans on Twitter, allowing for some confusion as to whether or not the Isles coach and his players are on the same page.

One player who will be on a different page tonight is Kevin Poulin. Despite three straight starts that displayed excellent play from the young goaltender, Nabokov will give him a rest tonight and face his former Conference rivals.

Thomas Vanek is still out as he remains day-to-day with his upper-body injury, but he was seen skating this morning, which is a good sign.

Depending on tonight's results, one has to wonder where Poulin stands now in the eyes of his coaches. One can argue that his play has warranted the consideration to at least split the remaining games of the season, as opposed to being a designated back-up behind a seasoned veteran.

If the Isles are to beat the Red Wings tonight, they have to play a full sixty-minute game against a team that is filled with explosive talent.

Players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterburg and Johan Franzen will provide plenty of offensive scoring opportunities for the Red Wings, meaning that the Isles d-corps will have to be sharp and physical in front of their net.

The top line of Brock Nelson-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo will have to continue their stellar play and carry their team for the win, as the same cannot be said for another trio of players that have been noticeably struggling.

Michael Grabner does not have a goal in his last 19 games played and is pointless in his last 11; Josh Bailey only recorded one shot on goal in the past six games and is also struggling to provide offense as he is pointless in his last 10; Peter Regin does not have a point in his past nine games.

Grabner and Bailey are two players in particular that the Isles command offense from in order to be successful. Both seemed to have started the season off strong, scoring goals and setting up players from the get-go, but have clearly been very inconsistent ever since.

Combine these streaks with the injury to Vanek, inconsistent goaltending, a lack of effort in the third period and at times shaky defense, and you have your explanation for why this team has fallen in the standings.

The Islanders will look to rectify their game against their new Eastern Conference opponents tonight at the old barn at 7.

-Rob McGowan