Matt Moulson was once part of the New York Islanders’ corps of young and talented scorers but is now trying to help the Minnesota Wild reach the playoffs for a second straight season.
He’ll return to the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night for the first time since being traded in October and attempt to lead the Wild to just their second win in the last seven games.
The 30-year-old Moulson scored 30 or more goals in each of his three seasons with the Islanders, beginning in 2009-10, but the team and the winger couldn’t come to terms on a contract extension during this past offseason.
Instead of helping New York build on its first playoff appearance in six years, Moulson was shipped to Buffalo along with two draft picks Oct. 27 in exchange for Thomas Vanek. The Sabres then sent him to Minnesota on March 5 just before the trade deadline.
Moulson hasn’t provided too much production in his first six games with Minnesota (35-23-10), totaling one goal and one assist. He was kept off the scoresheet for a fourth straight contest in a 4-1 loss to red-hot Boston on Monday, the opener to a three-game Eastern trip.
The Wild trailed by one goal entering the third period of that game but were kept scoreless in the final frame despite a 16-10 shot advantage.
"It’s tough to sit here after a 4-1 loss, but you can’t be too disappointed with the effort of our guys tonight," coach Mike Yeo told the team’s website. "Our guys were staying with it after two periods."
The result dropped Minnesota to 1-2-3 in its last six games. The Wild, who have also lost back-to-back road contests, are seventh in the Western Conference and five points ahead of Dallas in ninth.
They’ll try to maintain that advantage while attempting to contain Moulson’s former linemate, Kyle Okposo.
The Minnesota native has eight points during a four-game streak, and he recorded a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over Buffalo on Saturday. Lubomir Visnovsky contributed three assists for the Islanders (26-34-9).
"We stuck with our game plan and we outplayed them," said Okposo, who has 99 career goals and is tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring.
While attempting to reach a milestone, Okposo will try to lead the Islanders to a fifth straight win in the series. He scored two of New York’s three goals in the third period of a 5-4 victory in Minnesota on Dec. 29, including the tiebreaker with 5:48 to go, and assisted on another.
Thomas Hickey also had three points (one goal, two assists) while helping the Islanders rally from a 3-0 deficit.
In this matchup with Minnesota, Hickey could get the chance to deny Ilya Bryzgalov his first win with the Wild. The Russian goaltender, acquired from Edmonton on March 4, is expected to start with his club playing back-to-back days.
In his debut for the Wild on March 9, Bryzgalov was outdueled by St. Louis’ Brian Elliott in a 3-2 shootout defeat. He’s 4-0-2 with a 1.46 goals-against average in his last six games against the Islanders and earned a 2-1 win for Philadelphia in the latest matchup April 25.
Likely New York starter and fellow Russian Evgeni Nabokov is 12-0-1 with a 1.60 GAA in his last 13 games against Minnesota but the most recent one was on April 2, 2010.
Nino Niederreiter will also visit Long Island for the first time since being traded in the offseason. The forward, selected fifth overall in the 2010 draft by New York, had a goal and an assist in the loss in December.