Maple Leafs-Islanders Preview

As the lowest-scoring team in the league, it’s not hard to see
where the New York Islanders need the most improvement.

Their overall play at home is also in need of a major
upgrade.

The Islanders look to win at Nassau Coliseum for only the second
time in eight games Friday night when they face the Toronto Maple
Leafs for the first time this season.

Because last season’s team fell one goal shy of having three
30-goal scorers and ranked 15th in the NHL in scoring, offense
didn’t figure to be a big problem for the Islanders this year.
Nearly three months into 2011-12, though, they rank last in the NHL
with 74 goals and have gotten shut out an NHL-high six times – five
at home.

Those offensive woes continued Thursday at Madison Square Garden
as the Islanders (11-15-6) scored three goals or fewer for the
seventh consecutive game in a 4-2 loss to the Rangers.

P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson scored on the power play for the
Isles, who failed to match a season high with their third straight
win following shootout victories at Minnesota and Winnipeg.

“We fought back, our power play was working and we did a lot of
good things but we have to try to find a way to score some more
goals,” coach Jack Capuano told the Islanders’ official
website.

One of the biggest culprits in the team’s offensive malaise is
top center John Tavares, who is tied for the team lead with 27
points but has only two goals in his last 21 games.

Even with Thursday’s loss, the Islanders are 5-2-1 in their last
eight road games, but are 1-4-2 in their past seven at home. New
York’s six home wins are tied for second-fewest in the league,
ahead of only Montreal.

The Islanders have fared very well at home against the Maple
Leafs (17-13-4) lately, going 8-2-2 in matchups on Long Island
since the start of 2005-06.

With rookie Anders Nilsson serving as New York’s backup, Evgeni
Nabokov is likely to start on back-to-back nights after stopping 21
shots versus the Rangers.

“I wasn’t as crisp as I wanted to be, but not bad,” Nabokov
said. “Every little detail is important because we are fighting for
the playoffs and we can’t afford to lose too many games.”

Nabokov is 3-0-0 with one tie and a 2.21 goals-against average
lifetime against Toronto.

The Maple Leafs ended a three-game skid with a 3-2 home victory
over Buffalo on Thursday. Nazem Kadri snapped a third-period tie
with his first goal of the season the day after he was called up
from the minors, and James Reimer made 40 saves for the second
straight game.

“We’ve got to take the good out of (Thursday) and move forward
and try to finish on a good note before the break,” Leafs captain
Dion Phaneuf said.

Phil Kessel moved into a tie for the league lead with his 20th
goal – the fourth consecutive season he’s reached that total.

Though he’s been plenty busy lately, Reimer could also make his
second start in as many nights. He is 2-0-1 with a 2.61 GAA in
three starts against the Islanders.

Poor penalty killing is one reason for the Leafs’ 3-5-2 stretch.
They have allowed 14 power-play goals during that 10-game span, but
those struggles might not be as big a concern against the punchless
Islanders, who are 4 for 33 with the man advantage over their last
eight home contests.