Playing the New York Islanders is almost always a mixed bag. Nine times out of ten, they seem to be mired in some awful losing streak, and about seven times out of ten the Thrashers're the team to help the Islanders break that streak. Last season Atlanta went 1-2-1 against the hapless team from Long Island. It might be a case of a team playing down to another team's level - or below that level - that gets the Thrashers in trouble. Everyone expects to beat the Islanders, and so far this season nearly everyone has (Florida blew them out 4-1 last night). But for whatever reason, the hockey gods usually tend to make an example out of the Thrashers as to why a little hubris is a good thing, as if the Thrashers need that lesson to begin with.
The Islanders are in the middle of a 12 game losing streak that new coach Jack Caputano can't get them out of.
There's a rare Rick DiPietro sighting tonight at Philips. The oft-injured goaltender hasn't started a game in Atlanta for about two years. So far this season he is 2-3 with an .854 SV% and a huge 4.21 GAA. This isn't the all-star level he was at in 2008, and this is certainly what the Islanders expected when they signed him to a huge, untradable 15 year contract. To give DiPietro credit, he's still working through multiple hip surgeries that take a while to recover from, especially a goaltender. That, and the Isles are incapable of scoring to back either him or Dwayne Roloson up. Their leading scorer, Matt Moulson has just 8 goals and 5 assists on the year and is a -7. John Tavares is 7-4-11 with a huge -14 rating. Moulson was a nightmare for Atlanta last year, so out of everyone on this hapless Islanders squad, he's the one that the defense needs to keep an eye on.
Lines and defense are unchanged from Friday night's 5-0 win over the Capitals. Ondrej Pavelec gets the start in goal, hoping to string two wins in a row together for the Thrashers for the first time since October 27th and 29th.