Five things to watch: Can the Islanders bounce back?

Alan Bass
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Each day, THN gives you five things to watch out for in the games ahead. There are 12 games tonight on tap: five Eastern Conference matchups, five Western Conference matchups, and two cross-conference tilts.

1) Unlikely Metro Division Rivals

Going into their first meeting this season, the Philadelphia Flyers had just one win in nine games, while the New York Islanders had four. The Flyers won that game 5-2. This time, the tides have turned. Now the Flyers are 6-2-2 in their last 10, and the Islanders are 3-7 in their last 10. Since the last meeting the Flyers have points in seven of 10 games, while the Islanders have points in four of 12 games. Last time, the slumping team came out on top – can it happen again this time? Or will the Flyers keep their hot streak going?

2) Youth vs. Former Youth

The Dallas Stars are rebuilding but have great youth. They are an exciting team, fun to watch, and have the brilliant mind of GM Jim Nill watching over them each night. The St. Louis Blues are just past the young, rebuilding phase and are entering the “just plain good” phase. They are sitting in second place in the Central Division, just one point behind the Blackhawks with two games in hand. This Central Division rivalry between the Blues and Stars is one that could continue for years – but for now let’s just see who can come out on top of the teams’ first meeting this season.

3) Pacific Division Battle

If anyone mentioned back in August that 30 percent through the season the Pacific Division lead would be battled in a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes, the response would most likely be, “What about the Kings? The Sharks? The Canucks??” Instead, Anaheim leads the division with 35 points, while Phoenix sits two spots below at 32, with a win leaving them in second place. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry sit fourth and seventh, respectively, in the NHL in points, while the Coyotes rely much more on their diversity, with nine players already having hit 10 points. The two teams have the same number of goals scored so far, while the Ducks have a slightly better defense. All of this translates to one thing: the promise of a great game.

4) Alfredsson Plays His Former Team for Second Time

The first time the Sens and Red Wings met this year, Ottawa blew out their new division rivals with a 6-1 shellacking. Bobby Ryan had two goals, while Alfredsson was a no-show. This time around, the Red Wings are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, fighting with four others for the division lead. The Senators are struggling in sixth place with just 20 points and a losing record – not to mention a three-game losing streak. Henrik Zetterberg sits fifth in the NHL in points, while Pavel Datsyuk sits not too far behind with 22 points in 23 games. The Senators’ leading scorer is defenseman Erik Karlsson – showing just how much their offense has struggled.

5) Pittsburgh Travels to Montreal

Despite the Penguins sitting first place in the Metropolitan and the Canadiens laying low in fifth place in the Atlantic, only four points separate the two. The Penguins have the better offense, while the Habs have the better defense. Montreal is 6-5-2 at home, the Pens are 5-5 on the road. Montreal has won two straight, Pittsburgh three straight. The similarities between the teams are endless, so Canadians, be sure to turn on CBC tonight, while Americans should turn the tube to the NHL Network to catch what could be the game of the night.