NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Islanders

Hamonic on Isles key to success: Halak and the forecheck

With Monday’s victory over the Flyers, the Islanders took over the top spot in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break. For Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic, he knows there’s more than a few keys to success for this squad, but some have been more important that others (NHL, Jan. 20).

“Our forecheck… Man, I watch how some of the defensemen have to play against our forwards and it makes me happy that I’m on this team, because they give some guys fits,” Hamonic said. “We have guys that get in on the body and hit and hit. They’re just relentless. As a defenseman, maybe in the first and second it doesn’t wear you down, but come the third period it’s going to wear you down. Obviously I’m not getting in on the forecheck, but from that perspective it looks like it makes things difficult on other teams, and I think we have one of the best forward groups in the League.”

But the forecheck isn’t the only important thing on the ice for Harmonic. No, this next one is care from the offensive zone, between the pipes.

“Jaro [Halak] has been unbelievable this season, can’t say enough good things about him,” Hamonic said of the Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak. “So when there are chances to be had, he’s been there to shut the door every time.”

Things have been coming together on the ice for the Islanders, who have struggled through a string of tough seasons. Now, as they look to stay on top, Hamonic attributes that success to the persistency of this squad.

“Obviously there were a couple of years there where things weren’t really going our way, and then we had the playoff run a couple seasons ago. We’ve had some new pieces come to our team, but for the most part it’s been relatively the same personnel, the same people,” Hamonic said. “I think we’ve always believed in our group and what we’re trying to accomplish here. By no means have we accomplished anything yet, but I feel like we’re playing some pretty good hockey and we’re just trying to get better each game.”

Grabovski could return after break

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Islanders may have a tough decision on their hands when they return from the All-Star break.

Head Coach Jack Capuano said that Mikhail Grabovski could be ready once the team returns from the break. He has been out with a lower-body injury since leaving the game early on January 9 against New Jersey. Grabovski, along with injured defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, both skated before Monday’s matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Grabbo is getting real close and could be ready when we return,” Capuano said. “Visnovsky again skated this morning. Felt really good, but don’t know if he’d be ready right after the break. They’re still day-to-day, but it’s good to see both of them on the ice going through the drills. Now we will just get them in some contact.”

The question will then become who comes out of the lineup to allow for Grabovski to go back in. If Capuano does not want to mess with the chemistry of the team he could hold off on reinserting Grabovski in a similar fashion he did with Michael Grabner. 

The Islanders have gone 5-1-0 since Grabovski went down with an injury, which includes big wins over the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Islanders head into All-Star break off a 7-4 win over Philly

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It took the Islanders just 1:32 into the first period to take the lead in their eventual 7-4 win over Philadelphia Monday, their final game before the NHL All-Star break.NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders

The Islanders head into the break with a 31-14-1 record and hold the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. They also hold, for the moment, first place in the Eastern Conference.

Monday’s contest was never really close. The Islanders took a 3-0 lead after Nikolay Kulemin scored his second goal of the game at 4:53 of the second period. Former Isles captain Mark Strait scored to cut New York’s lead to two, but that would be as close as the Flyers would get.

The teams traded a combined seven more goals before all was said and done as the Isles secured the win.

“It was just a good hard effort,”Islanders captain John Tavares said. “A lot of hockey the last few days and it was just a good effort to end the stretch we just had here on a good note. We were able to create opportunities, a lot of pucks to the net and that brought us some success.”

The Isles finished with 41 shots on net and Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves in the victory. Kulemin’s three points gave him six in his last five games .

Kulemin has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) through 46 games . Those 20 points tie his season total from last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Russian winger said he was happy with where his offensive game is.

“I like to play offensively more. Just try to go to the net more and find more lanes to shoot the puck,” Kulemin said.

The Islanders will practice on Tuesday. Their first game after the All-Star break is next Tuesday (Jan. 27) against the Rangers at the Coliseum.

Game Recap: Islanders 7 – Flyers 4

Recap: The Islanders used an offensive barrage to beat the Flyers on Monday afternoon on Long Island.

Need to Know: The Islanders got on the board early when Michael Grabner‘s goal made it 1-0 just 1:36 into the game. About six minutes later, Nikolay Kulemin found the back of the net to extend the Isles’ lead to 2-0.

New York picked up the second period right where they left off as Kulemin scored a short handed goal roughly five minutes in to make it 3-0. From that point until there were less than two minutes to go in the third period, the Islanders and Flyers exchanged goals until it was 6-4 Islanders.

With 1:03 left in the third period, Anders Lee notched an empty-net goal to make it 7-4 Isles and seal the victory.

With Monday’s victory, the Islanders moved into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Links: AP recap | Box Score

What’s Next: The Isles return from the All-Star break to host the Rangers on Tuesday, January 27 at 7 p.m.

Okposo named NHL’s third star of the week

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Kyle Okposo was named the third star of the week by the National Hockey League on Monday.NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders

The Islanders’ forward had six points ( five goals, one assist) during three games last week. Okposo had a four goal game on Saturday night during the Islanders comeback win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the first Islander player to score four goals in a single game since Matt Moulson did so in 2011.

Okposo had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. He has seven goals and nine assists in his last 13 games for the Islanders.

Game day (46): Flyers at Islanders, 1 pm

Nassau Coliseum — Uniondale, NY
TV: MSG Plus Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, WRCN 103.9 FM

The Least You Should Know About the Flyers… The Flyers have two players representing the organization at this year’s All-Star game. Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek will head to columbus. Voracek leads Philly in both goals (17) and points (53)… The Flyers are in the middle of the pack when in comes goals against per game. The team is allowing 2.87 goals against per game through 44 games this season. They have surrendered a total of 132 goals this season… Philadelphia’s special teams are on ends of the spectrum. The team’s power play is operating a 23.1 percent effectiveness. However, their penalty kill is worst in the NHL.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Jaroslav Halak is back in net, as the Islanders take on the Philadelphia Flyers in their final game before the All-Star break.

Halak started in this weekend’s back-to-backs against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The Islanders went 1-1 over the weekend. Head coach Jack Capuano said before the game that he didn’t feel the Isles’ loss was a reflection of how Halak played in Montreal.

“It was just one of those games where we didn’t do a lot to help him either,” Capuano said. “We gave up the power play goals early. We got ourselves back in and then broke down on a few occasions right at the start of the period. He had a good day here yesterday here. Just 15 minutes to just get loosened up and get him right back in there right before the break.”

Capuano will use the same lineup that the Islanders had against Montreal.

Rob Zepp will start in net for the Flyers. Depp is 3-1-0 in five appearances this season, with a 2.38 goals against and a .904 save percentage.

Recap: Canadiens 6 – Islanders 4

Recap: The Canadiens held off the Islanders in a wild third period to win 6-4 on Saturday night.

Need to Know: Tomas Plekanec had two goals and two assists as the Canadiens defeated the Islanders. The Canadiens jumped out to leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 6-2 before the Islanders rallied in the fourth. Kyle Okposo, Nikolay Kulemin, Anders Lee and John Tavares scored for the Islanders.

Links: Game view 

Next up: the Islanders host the Flyers on Monday at 1 p.m.