While it may sound weird at first, the Thursday night match-up between the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders is shaping up to be a goaltending duel. Maple Leafs starter James Reimer and Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will both enter the game with identical 4-0-1 marks in their last five appearances, but one team will improve their playoff position by the time the final horn sounds.
The Islanders are in good shape heading into a five-game road trip to finish out the regular season. They have a three-point lead over the New York Rangers (eighth), and are just one point back from the Ottawa Senators (sixth) in the Eastern Conference standings. Nabokov has been a workhorse for the team this season, and he has responded with 21 wins, a 2.49 goals-against average and three shutouts. He will likely be busy down the stretch, as he presents the Islanders with a much better chance to win than backup Kevin Poulin does.
The Islanders offense ranks seventh in the league while averaging just under three goals per game, and their power play is converting more than 21 percent of its opportunities. They will need to get to Reimer early and often if they hope to bring home two points, but this may not be an easy task considering he has only allowed one goal in his last two outings. As the Islanders get closer to a guaranteed postseason spot, they will need a big contribution from John Tavares and Matt Moulson. The two young forwards have been leading the team all season, but Moulson’s goal on Tuesday is the only offense either has generated in the past three games.