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Preview: Leafs face the Islanders in the slush bowl

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The Leafs are off to Barclays Center, home of the most notorious ice in the NHL.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders: Game #51

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Brooklyn Pete’s Slushy Parlour and Ice Cream Shoppe

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet and MSG+ 2

Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey

The Islanders are all about change this season. Recently you may have seen incendiary headlines about them being kicked out of their arena. You should not be surprised to learn that the headline was not the whole story, and the breaking news moniker was a little misplaced, and yet lots of people now believe firmly that the Islanders are about to be homeless wandering in the wilderness until they cross the border, hire Patrick Roy as coach and become Les Nordiques.

The truth is much less exciting, isn’t really new information, and won’t send the Islanders on a long cross-border journey.

Newsday has reported that the Islanders and Barclays Center each can opt out of their 25-year license agreement next January. The Islanders can choose to leave after next season or the 2018-19 season; if Barclays Center were to opt out, the Islanders would leave after the 2018-19 season.

Even if the Islanders secure a site for a new building, experts say it’s all but impossible to have a new arena built by the time they would leave Barclays Center. That means the Islanders, in such a scenario, would need to find an interim home or work out an extension with Barclays Center.

So there will be disruption, but the Slush Dome was never really expected to be a permanent solution for the team, even before it became clear how bad the ice would remain without major infrastructure upgrades.

Both the Islanders and the former Nordiques are the biggest argument in the NHL today against the way the league is carrying out expansion. The hot weather teams may have some problems here and there: attendance and ownership in Carolina, ever winning a game in Arizona, but the Avalanche and the Islanders are both teams functioning on the cusp of failure as established franchises in established markets.

They both have poor attendance, and they both lose a lot—although the Islanders could technically grab a wildcard spot on the strength of their games in hand, a winning streak down the stretch, and some help from the five teams ahead of them.

I watched the Islanders play the Avs recently and my feeling was you could combine the two teams, get one smoking hot NHL club, a good AHL team and have about 20 guys left over that Vegas wouldn’t even take.

So while it is true that there are good players who can’t crack NHL lineups, and that seems to imply expansion is a good idea, and while there is a lot of parity in the league, there are also teams that barely ice an NHL roster. Think Toronto last year or New Jersey this year, only not on purpose.

For all of that, the Islanders are mildly surging now that they’ve fired their coach and are seeking both new upper management and a new home. The coaching change plus some players coming off of IR gave them a nice run of points. Playing their better young players ahead of the fourth liners is likely helping too.

They have some very interesting young prospects for the future too, but for now they are avoiding the basement of the Metropolitan because New Jersey is in that division, not due to anything they’ve actually accomplished this season as John Tavares experiences another year of futility.

By the way, this Lighthouse piece The Complete Encyclopedia of John Tavares telling the Toronto Maple Leafs to get lost is pretty funny, and includes Tavares telling some hard truth about how bad the ice at the ACC is sometimes.

Toronto Maple Leafs

(Standard configuration, as per the end of the most recent game, if not the beginning.)

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - OMG Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Martin Marincin - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

New York Islanders

(From Daily Faceoff)

Forward Lines

Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome

Andrew Ladd - Alan Quine - Jason Chimera

Nikolay Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Shane Prince

Defence Pairings

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan - Dennis Seidenberg

Thomas Hickey - Adam Pelech

Goaltenders

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube


This game being the first of a back to back with travel in the middle, we’ll likely see Curtis McElhinney in on one of the days. Tonight’s game seems more logical for that to me, but logic doesn’t always dictate in the NHL.

We know that Alexey Marchenko is not due to draw into the lineup yet, so the only issue on defence for the Leafs is how disgusted is Mike Babcock with Martin Marincin’s bad, penalty-filled performance?

We will update you with any lineup changes as they become available.