Date: Saturday, December 21st, 2019
Time: 10:00 AM Pacific
Location: Nassau Coliseum
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: AM 830
Your Enemy: Lighthouse Hockey
When the Anaheim Ducks visit the New York Islanders for Saturday afternoon’s matchup, they will be playing at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum located in Uniondale on New York’s Long Island. The building opened on February 11, 1972, and when I met my father last weekend he remembered the chaotic atmosphere of a Mahavishnu Orchestra concert held there in its early days. Since then, it has been home to a dozen different athletic teams, some of which had more longevity than others. The Coliseum was home to the Islanders dynasty of 1979-1983 that yielded the franchise’s only four Stanley Cup championships, and things have come full circle in the present day.
While a future home in Belmont Park is set to open for the 2021-22 season, the team is splitting its time between the Coliseum and Barclays Center. Barclays Center was always the intended home of the Brooklyn Nets beginning in 2012, but according to many observers, the sight lines for hockey are poor. Its location adjacent to Atlantic Terminal is well served by public transit but not necessarily proximate to the majority of Islander fans. As a result, the team has enjoyed some recent success but is drawing just 12,196 fans per game so far, which is the second lowest figure in the league. While it’s true that the Coliseum only holds 14,500 spectators, Barclays Center can fit up to 19,000.
The Ducks have dropped the first two games of their current road trip and hold a record of 14-17-4. Meanwhile, the Islanders occupy second place in the Metropolitan Division with a mark of 23-8-2. They defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night. However, Anaheim did end their 17-game point streak with a 3-0 win at Honda Center back on November 25.
Players to Watch
While Mathew Barzal may be the top forward for the Islanders, Brock Nelson is having a nice run of late. He is second on the team in points (12-14-26) and scored twice in a 5-1 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 9.
For the Ducks, Rickard Rakell has six points over the last two weeks. Three of those have arrived on the power play. In addition, Ryan Getzlaf posted a goal and an assist against the Islanders in November.
Keys to the Game
Sustain the energy.
On Sunday, the Ducks will face the New York Rangers in another day game. However, there’s no excuse for fatigue on the front end of a back-to-back. Despite losing goaltender Robin Lehner to the Chicago Blackhawks in free agency, the Islanders have allowed the fewest goal total in the league (82 in 33 games). Anaheim will likely need to work hard for scoring opportunities.
Take advantage of the man advantage.
The Islanders are 13-3-1 at home this season but were blitzed by the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, losing 8-3 despite allowing just 24 shots. The visitors scored twice on the power play in that one. The Islanders have killed 80.0% of penalties so far after having a success rate of 79.9% last season.
Own the crease.
It will be interesting to see which Ducks goalie gets the first half of the weekend. John Gibson played on Tuesday in Philadelphia while Ryan Miller was between the pipes on Wednesday against New Jersey. Anaheim has actually allowed slightly fewer shots on goal against (31.2) than the Islanders (31.5). However, the Ducks have a team save percentage of .906 compared to .921 for the Isles.