Before the season started many experts had both the Canadiens and Islanders battling near each other in the standings but few had them battling for home ice advantage. Montreal ( 11-6-3) currently sits in 4th in the conference and the Islanders ( 11-6-0) are currently 6th despite having played the fewest games of any other team in the east.
Surprising starts is not all these two clubs have in common as both coaches have their entire teams buying into their defensive system even players like Miro Satan and Alex Kovalev are playing very well without the puck in the defensive and neutral zone. The Canadiens and Islanders rank 10th and 11th respectively in goals against per game in the NHL.
Rick DiPietro (10-5) will be in goal for New York tonight. DiPietro has a 4-5 record all time against the Canadiens. The Habs will counter with Cristobal Huet (6-5-2). Huet has a 3-2-1 all time record against the Islanders with one of those wins coming via a shutout.
Special teams is where both of these teams have been winning many of their games, the entire league knows about Montreal’s deadly number 1 ranked power play but many may not know about the Islanders penalty kill (5th overall, 2nd in the Conference). New York has only allowed 1 power play goal in their last 5 games, and have allowed multiple power play goals in a game just twice this season.
Line-up notes: Tom Kostopoulos will return to the Canadiens line-up after being sitting out last game with an automatic 1-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final minutes of the Canadiens win on Saturday night against the Bruins. Josh Gorges may also return to the line-up in place of Patrice Brisebois and Kyle Chipchura may push Bryan Smolinski down to the 4th line.
1. When the Islanders don’t allow a power play goal their record is 8-2.
2. Montreal’s record when they score 2 or more power play goals is 6-1-1.
3. The road team has won 5 straight games between these two teams.
4. Chris Higgins has 6 goals in his seven career games against the Islanders but has never picked up an assist against his hometown team.