Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders
When and Where: Thursday, Jan. 3, Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, N.Y., 7:35 p.m. EST.
Looking to match a season high with a fifth straight victory, the surging New York Islanders attempt to continue their charge up the Metropolitan Division standings Thursday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Blackhawks look to rebound from Winter Classic loss
Chicago has been playing better of late as the changes coach Jeremy Colliton has made since replacing Joel Quenneville have taken hold, but the Blackhawks were denied a sixth win in seven games Tuesday after a 4-2 loss to Boston in the Winter Classic at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
Thank you to the 76,126 who joined us for today's #WinterClassic!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 1, 2019
Brendan Perlini and Dominik Kahun scored the goals for the Blackhawks, whose special teams were not all that special. Chicago failed to cash in on four power-play chances while allowing two man-advantage goals to Boston on five penalty kills.
It was Perlini’s third goal in 17 games since joining Chicago from Arizona via trade in November, but all three goals have come in his last eight appearances.
“Obviously, when you get traded [there’s a] new city, new surroundings, living in a hotel and things like that. A lot of people think it’s instant success right away. But you have to turn your whole life around when you go somewhere else,” Perlini told the club’s official website. “That’s the toughest bit. Now I’ve been here for a month or more and just learned from all the guys and have some friendships now.”
Patrick Kane, who leads the Blackhawks with 22 goals and 50 points, will try to start a new point streak after having an eight-game run come to an end in which he totaled seven goals and six assists. He has 10 goals and 10 assists in 14 career matchups with the Islanders, registering at least one point in 11 of those contests.
Collin Delia could be in line to put his perfect record on the line after Cam Ward made 32 saves in Tuesday’s loss. Delia, who has never faced the Islanders, has won all three of his starts this season, yielding just five goals on 116 shots while posting a .957 save percentage.
The Blackhawks are hoping newly acquired forward Drake Caggiula will be available for this game. The 24-year-old’s arrival from Edmonton has been delayed due to visa issues.
Isles gaining ground in Metropolitan
The Islanders (21-13-4) have won six of seven overall after sweeping a brief two-game road swing following a 3-1 victory at Buffalo on Monday night and closed within five points of division-leading Washington.
Robin Lehner made 12 of his 39 saves against his former team in the third period, helping New York maintain a tenuous lead before Ryan Pulock secured the win with an empty-net goal the netminder notched an assist on.
“This was a huge win for us. We’re right there in the playoff race with a couple of games in hand,” Lehner told the Islanders official website. “We need to keep climbing and try to separate and catch up. [Buffalo] was good today, so it felt really good to win tonight.”
Lehner is enjoying the longest single-season winning streak of his career, posting a 0.66 goals-against average in four starts and a relief appearance while conceding three goals and posting a .979 save percentage.
"I just see a complete game. We're working hard every shift."
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 2, 2019
Lehner is 0-2-1 in three career starts versus Chicago, including a 48-save effort in a 3-2 overtime loss last season while playing for Buffalo.
Mathew Barzal, who has team highs of 26 assists and 36 points, carries a five-game point streak into this contest with six goals and three assists.
The Islanders are:
- 5-1 in their last six games following a win.
- 5-1 in their last six games when their opponents score two or fewer goals in their previous game.
- The under is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games following a win.
- The under is 13-3-1 in their last 17 games.
- The under is 5-0-1 in their last six games vs. Western Conference teams.
The Blackhawks are:
- 2-8 in their last 10 games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- 8-19 in their last 27 games when their opponent scores two or fewer goals in their previous game.
- 9-29 in their last 38 games vs. teams with an above-.500 home record.
- The under is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games vs Metropolitan Division opponents.
- The under is 5-1 in their last six road games vs. the Islanders.
- The under is 9-2 in their last 11 games vs. the Islanders.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Islanders have been one of the feel-good stories of the NHL this season, regrouping after watching star center John Tavares leave for Toronto via free agency as 2018 Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamiorello have worked hand in glove creating a cohesive team who play within themselves.
In the moment, though, they are riding Lehner and getting timely goals — which is sometimes more important than getting a large number of them. New York has also cut down on its penalties of late, taking just seven during its four-game winning streak that has lessened the pressure on a still-shaky penalty kill operating at a 77.5 percent success rate.
While playing better of late, this has the feel of the Blackhawks running into the buzzsaw of a hot goaltender in Lehner, making the Islanders the pick.
Prediction: Pick: Islanders -162
Full-Game Total Pick
Despite his limited sample size of three starts, Delia has posted two wins over the Colorado Avlanche. Granted, the Avs have struggled of late, but they still have one of the best top lines in the NHL.
New York has good players but no one on that elite level, which means Delia should at worst keep the Blackhawks in this game while trying to match Lehner save for save. The under is a strong play here.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 6 goals
Half-Time Side Pick
Riding the hot hand with this pick, and the Islanders have conceded just two first-period goals during their seven-game surge. While Chicago has tightened defensively of late, it is still prone to leak goals and adds to the confidence in taking the home team to be ahead after 20 minutes.
Prediction: Pick: Islanders -0.5 goals (+145)
Half-Time Total Bet
While the Islanders have been nearly airtight during their seven-game run, the Blackhawks have had eight of their last 10 games feature two more markers in the first 20 minutes. This is a more challenging pick than riding the Islanders but the expectation is a second first-period goal occurs.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 1.5 goals