Jacques Martin is going with old line of "If it's not broke, don't fix it." as the Montreal Canadiens play host to the New York Islanders (4-2-2) Wednesday night. Martin plans to make no changes to his lineup, and will give Carey Price his ninth straight start in goal.
It is the first meeting between the two clubs, in regular season play, and they will meet again Friday on Long Island. The Canadiens won the season series in 2009-10, with a 3-0-1 record.
This is also the first meeting since the pre-season match-up in which Mike Cammalleri got into a stick swinging incident with Islanders rookie Nino Niederreiter. How both clubs respond, in their first encounter since that incident, will likely be more hyped by the fans than the players and coaches.
The Islanders hot start is anchored by their offence, which is second in the Eastern Conference with 3.25 goals per game. John Tavares leads the Isles charge with 5 goals and 2 assists while on a four game point streak. P.A. Parenteau is on a four-game streak of his own (1G 4A).
NHL.com's Dyan LeBurdais has an interesting feature on why Parenteau wears the No. 15 sweater.
It will also be be judgment day for the young Niedrreiter, who will be playing in his ninth career NHL game. The Swiss-born winger has a goal and an assist in eight games. Islanders management will have to decide after game nine, whether or not to send him back to his Junior team. If they don't, his Entry-Level contract becomes official and they will have to keep him with the Islanders, or send him down to the minors.
The Islanders are hurting on the injury front. Trent Hunter could be a game-time decision, with a foot injury and Michael Grabner has a groin problem and is not making the trip to Montreal. Matt Martin has been called up as an emergency precaution. Mark Streit (shoulder) Rob Schremp (back), and Kyle Okposo (shoulder) are amongst Long Island's walking wounded. Josh Bailey (hip) should be available tonight as per Chris Botta.
Meanwhile the Canadiens roster is in much healthier form, with Andrei Markov expected to get playing clearance for Saturday's game at home against the Florida Panthers.
Montreal is riding a two-game winning streak, and is 3-1 on the road thus far.
Despite having success on the power play in their last victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, the Canadiens are still last in the league with the man advantage. The Islanders have the fifth best record. It can be argued that Montreal is 26th in opportunities with the man advantage, compared to the league leaders who have had as man as 20 more chances. Forcing the opposition into mistakes could also benefit their cause.
The flip side is that the Montreal penalty killing unit is second in the league, and their shots against has improved to sixth best.
While the Canadiens top line of Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn continues to be successful offensively, they are still in search of some secondary scoring. Martin is hoping by keeping the lines intact, that it will eventually lead to some production, but don't be surprised to see him experiment as the game progresses.
Cammalleri seems to agree. "I'm a big, big believer that the longer you stay together and the more chemistry you can build the more dynamic you can be offensively," he said after Monday's game.
First goals are important for both teams early in the season. Montreal is 4-0-1, when finding the back of the net first, while the Islanders are 4-1. Conversely they are 1-2 and 0-1-2 respectively when their opposition scores first.
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Bulldogs back in action: The Hamilton Bulldogs are home to face the Syracuse Crunch Wednesday night. The Dogs are coming off a pair of shootout losses on the road against Manitoba, and an overtime loss Sunday at home to Oklahoma.
Despite going winless in their last three games, the Bulldogs power play still maintains success in each of their first six games and is third in the AHL.
Hamilton also assigned forward Danny Masse to Wheeling of the ECHL. Masse had played in one game this season, recording a minor penalty.
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The Habs latest marketing ploy: The Habs First Star at home games now throw autographed pucks to the crowd. Initially thought of as a nice gesture on the players part, it is apparently a marketing strategy. While many like it, this one blogger doesn't.
What the Islanders faithful are up to at Lighthouse Hockey
How bad is it on the Island? You'd never see the Canadiens needing to throw meet and greets in to sell tix. Speaking of tickets, take a look at the Islanders main page to promote their next home game.