Islanders face Canadiens, aim for third straight win
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The battered New York Islanders will need rookie Mathew Barzal to stay hot as they try for three wins in a row when they play the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night at Bell Centre.
With five regulars out of the lineup, Barzal had his second five-point game of the season on Saturday to power the Islanders (22-18-4) to a 7-2 win over the New York Rangers. Barzal also had five points against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 5 and joined former captain Bryan Trottier as the only Islanders with two five-point games in their rookie seasons.
Barzal, who had two goals and three assists against the Rangers, is playing on a line with wingers Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier. Shutting down that line, which had 12 points against the Rangers, will be the challenge for the Canadiens.
"(Beauvillier) comes in, works hard, wins all his battles. (Eberle) is making skill plays. And (I'm) a little waterbug out there," Barzal told NHL.com. "Just one of those (days) where everything kind of finds its way into the back of the net."
The Islanders were one point out of the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference going into the games Sunday night.
Barzal, 20, was chosen by the Islanders with the 16th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has 44 points (15 goals and 29 assists) in 44 games. He leads the rookie scoring race by four points over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks. Boeser has 40 points (22 goals and 18 assists) in 41 games.
The Islanders will be without forward Casey Cizikas against the Canadiens. He left the game against the Rangers after being hit on the hand with the follow through of a shot by New York's Pavel Buchnevich.
The Islanders are already without forwards Josh Bailey (lower body) and Andrew Ladd (upper body), who will each miss his third game against the Canadiens.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk is out with a lower body injury. Forward Nikolay Kulemin and defenseman Calvin de Haan are both out long term with shoulder injuries.
The Canadiens (18-20-5) will try for a point in a fourth straight game and move closer to the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. They are eight points out after they lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
There was good news for the Canadiens when center Phillip Danault was released from the hospital on Sunday. He was hit in the head with a shot by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and was taken off the ice on a stretcher with 1:37 left in the second period. He was hospitalized overnight to monitor his condition.
Chara was concerned, spoke to Danault and gave him a pat just before he was taken off the ice. Chara had a conversation with Canadiens defenseman Jordie Benn at the ends of their respective benches before the start of the third period.
"He just asked how Phil was doing," Benn told Montrealcanadiens.com. "He was pretty concerned about him. He didn't mean to do it. He just asked me how he was doing. ... Our training staff and paramedics did a great job and he's doing well. We just have to wait and hopefully he can get healthy pretty quick."
The Canadiens are closing out a five-game homestand in which they are 2-1-1 so far. The game against the Islanders will be their first of four games in six nights.
"There are some big games coming up," Canadiens center Jonathan Drouin told the team's website. "We like the way we've been playing the past three games. The Islanders are doing very well, they're scoring a lot of goals, so we'll have to be good defensively."
The Canadiens hope captain Max Pacioretty has found a groove. Pacioretty scored for the third game in a row Saturday. He had one goal in 22 games before his current streak.
Updated January 15, 2018