|Panthers look to rebound from loss vs. rising Isles|
The New York Islanders are set to visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in a battle of two teams on the rise in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders have built their team on defense, and they are 16-0-1 this season when scoring at least three non-shootout goals.
But their most recent game, a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, gave Islanders forwards a chance to puff their collective chests.
"We have guys that can score," said Islanders center Brock Nelson, who had two goals on Monday. "We also have character, and we've shown we can win in different ways."
The Islanders' goals-against average of 2.38 ranks third in the NHL as of Wednesday, and that defense will be tested on Thursday by the much-improved Panthers' offense that ranks fifth in the league (3.27 per game).
That could be the key matchup as the Panthers look to rebound from Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Florida's only goal in that game came with 2:00 left in the third period, after the Panthers had pulled their goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky. Evgenii Dadonov got the goal, his 12th of the season.
One of the big stories lately for the Panthers has been Bobrovsky, who has an impressive .964 save percentage over his past three games (2-1-0). He has stopped 109 of 113 shots during that span.
But Bobrovsky and the Panthers were let down on Tuesday by their power play, which went 0-for-3. In their previous three games, the power play clicked (4 for 11) at a high rate.
"I think our whole game fell apart," Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman said of Tuesday's loss. "We didn't generate anything offensively, which usually comes natural to us. I don't think we had much of a forecheck. It was a poor performance.
"(Bobrovsky) was unbelievable. Without him, it would have been a much uglier score. He was great, and he is the only one who can say that."
For the season, winger Jonathan Huberdeau tops the Panthers in points (37) and is tied for the lead in assists (26) with captain Aleksander Barkov. Winger Brett Connolly, a steal of a signing as a free agent this past July, leads the Panthers in goals (14).
Bobrovsky is 11-7-4 with a 3.19 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.
The Islanders have defeated the Panthers the two times they have played this season, a 3-2 shootout victory and 2-1 win. Both of those were Islanders' home games.
Islanders goalies Semyon Varlamov (10-3-2) and Thomas Greiss (10-4-0) have both shown they can win consistently. Varlamov has a 2.26 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Greiss has a 2.24 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
Top-line center Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders in goals (12) and assists (14). Nelson, who has 11 goals and 12 assists, anchors their second line.
Two injuries could impact the Islanders as top-pairing defenseman Nick Leddy (lower body) missed the Tampa Bay game, and third-line winger Andrew Ladd (knee) is out.
Florida is relatively healthy with only fourth-line winger Jayce Hawryluk (undisclosed) out.
--Field Level Media