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Game #63 Preview: New York Islanders at Winnipeg Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets will see Anton Stralman again next season. Will Travis Hamonic be there to hit him?
The Winnipeg Jets will see Anton Stralman again next season. Will Travis Hamonic be there to hit him?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Your Winnipeg Jets face off against an until recently red-hot New York Islanders squad. Though 7-2-1 of late, the Islanders last two tilts feature losing to Edmonton 3-1, followed by a 3-2 win over Vancouver in which New York was outshot 33-24. Regardless, their stellar record has kept the likes of Pittsburgh at bay, though the Rangers own recent run of 7-2-1 has in turn left NYI still five points back of second in the Metro.

On the other hand, the Winnipeg Jets are 3-6-1 in their last 10, and 1-4-0 in their last five. With 56 points in 62 games, they're behind only Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. While catching the Maple Leafs seems rather unlikely, a bottom-three finish is completely plausible, and the bottom-five almost assured barring another stupendous March and April from Ondrej Pavelec.

The Jets and Islanders last met on Oct. 12th, in a 4-2 loss where Winnipeg was outshot 44-24 and allowed two shorthanded goals on six opportunities. Long story short, this may have been the highlight:

Catch the game tonight, 7:00 PM Central Time on MSG+, TSN3, WNYE 91.5 FMWRHU 88.7 FM and TSN1290.

It's a Numbers Game

New York Islanders

Winnipeg Jets

Record

34-20-7

26-32-4

Division-Conference-League

3rd - 6th - 11th

7th - 12th - 27th

Last 10 - Streak

7-2-1 - W1

3-6-1 - L2

Goals For / Game

2.79 (8th)

2.56 (19th)

Goals Against / Game

2.43 (9th)

2.95 (25th)

Shots For / Game

30.4 (10th)

29.8 (16th)

Shots Against / Game

30.2 (18th)

29.6 (13th)

5v5 Corsi For %

50.4% (15th)

51.8% (9th)

5v5 Shooting %

7.77% (10th)

6.95% (19th)

5v5 SV %

92.88% (15th)

92.30% (20th)

Power Play %

19.1% (14th)

16.2% (28th)

Penalty Kill %

87.0% (1st)

77.0% (27th)

PIM / Game

08:54 (14th)

12:20 (29th)

Last season, the New York Islanders were one of the better possession teams in the league, with their 5v5 CF% of 52.7% ranking 6th. 2nd in both Shots For per 60 and Corsi For per 60, this was a team with some serious offensive mojo (though one with work to do in terms of shot suppression).

In 2015-16 however, things have taken a turn for the worse. Though still on the positive side of the ledger, their 5v5 CF% has dropped from 6th to 15th, CF60 from 2nd to 7th and SF60 from 2nd to 13th. And no, this hasn't been the cost of an improved defensive game; the Islanders are worse in that respect as well. To be clear, the Islanders are still a good team. But among those likely heading to the Stanley Cup playoffs, they're a second-tier contender at best.

If there's one area New York seems to excel in without reservation, it's the penalty kill. Led by Johnny Boychuk, Frans Nielsen, Nikolai Kulemin and Calvin de Haan, their PK runs at a rate of 87.0%, good for 1st in the NHL. Granted, the Islanders have been shorthanded 43 fewer times than 2nd place Anaheim, but it remains an efficient penalty kill nonetheless. Against an inept Winnipeg Jets power play, there shouldn't be a problem.

Greiss Lightning

Thomas Greiss

Michael Hutchinson

Record

17-6-3

7-12-1

Overall SV%

.931%

.906%

ES SV%

.937%

.909%

PP SV%

.906%

.893%

Michael Hutchinson looks to be your Jets starter tonight, continuing the goalie rotation of late. He's 2-3-0 with a .914 SV% against the Metropolitan Division this year, and coming off a February SV% of .911. Fun fact: despite his struggles, at .919% Ondrej Pavelec still has the significantly better even strength save percentage. Food for thought.

There's a goalie controversy brewing in Brooklyn. Jaroslav Halak is in the second of a four year contract which pays him $4.5 million per season. Thomas Greiss, signed as a backup in the offseason for two years and $1.5 mil AAV, has been the better netminder.

It goes beyond Greiss' record of 17-6-3, versus Halak's 16-13-4. Thomas Greiss has an overall save percentage of .931%, far above Halak's .919%. At even strength, the discrepancy grows to .937% versus .919%. This is despite Greiss having had the tougher 5v5 slog when it comes to Shots Against per 60 and Corsi Against per 60.

While Halak has a February save percentage of .905%, Greiss posted a stellar .945%, albeit in four games as opposed to Halak's eight. On that note and as pointed out in today's NHL.com preview by Patrick Williams, Halak has started four of the last five games. It's interesting then, how Greiss is now set to start in a second straight game. Perhaps a calculator spoke to Jack Capuano.

Regardless, in tonight's tilt, the New York Islanders should have a significant advantage in net.

Ham-Ham Heartbreak

Travis Hamonic

Tyler Myers

Games Played

57

62

Goals - Assists - Points

5 - 11 - 16

6 - 16 - 22

Power Play Points

0

2

Shooting %

4.1%

5.0%

TOI / Game

23:45

22:34

PP TOI / Game

00:51

02:18

SH TOI / Game

02:12

02:08

5v5 Corsi For RelTM%

+2.5%

+0.2%

Penalty Differential

-4

-13

Travis Hamonic is coming in hot, which for him means two points in his last three games and three in his last six. On pace for 7 goals and 15 assists, Hamonic is hardly an offensive juggernaut, though in his defence he normally has Nick Leddy, Marek Zidlicky and Johnny Boychuk ahead of him on the Power Play depth chart. Regardless, Jetslandia will be excited to see the future Edmonton Oilers defenceman first-hand tonight.

Speaking of Boychuk and Zidlicky, the former has gone cold with zero points in six games, while the latter is set to be a healthy scratch yet again. Thomas Hickey has three points in his last three games, which is a welcome improvement from the zero in seven immediately prior.

For Winnipeg's d-corps, the Dustin Byfuglien & Friends show continues. Big Buff is on a six game point streak, and has 15 in his last 15 games. Over those same 15 games, Trouba, Myers and Enstrom combined have 14 points. And at 24:36, Byfuglien also plays the most ATOI of any defenceman on either team.

It only took a broken hand and waiver claim for Paul Postma to reappear as a lineup regular. The nearly forgotten depth defenceman will look to top his season-high 12:05 TOI from Tuesday's game against the Panthers.

The Little Prince

Kyle Okposo

Blake Wheeler

Games Played

59

62

Goals - Assists - Points

15 - 33 - 48

18 - 39 - 57

Power Play Points

19

16

Shooting %

10.6%

9.6%

TOI / Game

18:07

19:34

PP TOI / Game

03:08

03:03

SH TOI / Game

00:05

01:35

5v5 Corsi For RelTM%

+1.4%

+7.1%

Penalty Differential

-3

+7

If there's a positive for the Winnipeg Jets, it's that the first line is on fire. Blake Wheeler has three points in four games, Nik(olaj) Ehlers five in five and newly minted 1C Mark Scheifele a sweet six in four.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for two-thirds of the second line. Mathieu Perreault is rocking a five game pointless stretch and just one in his last 11, while Drew Stafford has a single point in his last nine. At the very least, Burmistrov has somewhat responded to his increase in ice time, with two points in four games and positive fancy stat contributions.

Over the last 18 games, Kyle Okposo has posted 17 points. The pending unrestricted free agent is now on pace for 65 points in 80 games, and will be due a significant raise come the summer. While it's easy to appreciate the idea of Okposo as "New York's rental", one wonders what the return might have been were he shopped more than not at all.

In addition to Okposo, the Islanders hottest forwards are of course Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. No really, it's true: Martin has six points in his last nine games and four in his last five, while Cizikas has an unreal nine in nine. Islanders fans shouldn't exactly bank on them maintaining this level of production, but it's nice to see a fourth line contribute on top of the typical crashing and banging.

After beginning his Islanders career beside John Tavares and Ryan Strome, trade deadline acquisition Shane Prince finds himself skating to the left of Nikolai Kulemin and Anders Lee. Obtained along with a 7th round pick in exchange for a 3rd, the 5'11" offensive winger may turn out to be a sneak good pickup by GM Garth Snow. It also left Ottawa Senators fans disgruntled, which is a win for everyone.

KTV: Winnipeg Jets

Key:

As mentioned above, New York's forward depth is on a tear at the moment, and Winnipeg should be wary of their confident fourth line. On defence however, there may be a chink in the armour.

The Islanders possess a solid top-four in Leddy-Boychuk + Hamonic-de Haan, but opportunity might be found against the bottom-pairing. While Thomas Hickey has become a reliable option for New York after being plucked off the waiver wire in 2013, Ryan Pulock will be playing in just his third NHL game. The former Brandon Wheat Kings captain and native of Dauphin, MB is expecting over 20 family and friends in attendance.

The Winnipeg Jets should look to exploit what inexperience and nerves might avail them. Pressure Pulock relentlessly, and be ready for an ill-timed pinch.

Tweet:

Video:

Dustin Byfuglien's goal brought the Winnipeg Jets to within one in the 3rd period, against a Thomas Greiss effort of just .917% on the night. For shame Thomas, for shame.

KTV: New York Islanders

Key:

Among all Winnipeg Jets players, Dustin Byfuglien owns the highest PIM count (91) and worst penalty differential (-18). Between Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, any and all of the fourth line can get under the opposition's skin. While it may endanger someone's life and livelihood, see if they can goad Big Buff into the penalty box. Winnipeg's penalty kill is a relative horror show, and it would keep arguably the Jets best penalty killer off the ice to boot.

Other than that, roll the forward lines while looking to shelter Pulock, lest Wheeler and Ehlers eat him alive.

Tweet:

Video:

Brock Nelson's tally put the Islanders up 2-0 in the second period, while giving birth to the Stanley Cup child raise from before. Hopefully Hutchinson isn't beat quite so cleanly tonight.

Affection or Affliction:

Affection. Future Edmonton Oilers defenceman Travis Hamonic could still hypothetically be traded to Winnipeg instead. The Islanders defensive stalwart would be a valuable top-four contributor, though preferably at the cost of Tyler Myers rather than Jacob Trouba (a matter which admittedly requires further investigation and analysis).

On the off chance Hamonic might still come to Winnipeg, shower him with praise and adoration.

Affliction. On the other hand, boo Ryan Pulock mercilessly. Nothing against the kid, just an attempt to frazzle the rookie and contribute to the already remarkable Nik(olaj) Ehlers point production.

According to Nostradamus

Prince scores, Cizikas continues his crazy run of point production and Hamonic ends the game with five hits to his name. Ehlers scores not once but twice, however Hutchinson allows two goals at even strength and one shorthanded tally on 27 shots total.

Winnipeg Jets lose 3-2.

Stats, facts and automobiles provided by NHL.com, Natural Stat Trick, WAR On Ice, Hockey AnalysisHockey Reference and The Hockey News.