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.