The New York Islanders ride a three-game winning streak into their road game versus the Minnesota Wild on Thursday with red-hot captain John Tavares at the wheel. Tavares hit the scoresheet in only one of New York’s first seven games but recorded four goals and three assists in his last two contests, including a hat trick in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over Arizona.
“I know how it gets when he bursts out and then he takes a team on his shoulders for a while,” Islanders coach Doug Weight told reporters. Tavares’ scoring spree vaulted him into the team lead in goals with six - one ahead of Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, with the latter scoring Tuesday. New York and Minnesota split two meetings last season as Tavares recorded two goals and a pair of assists, giving him six of each in 11 games versus the Wild. Minnesota began a season-high six-game homestand with a 1-0 loss to Vancouver, leaving it 0-1-1 at Xcel Energy Center this season and prompting defenseman Jared Spurgeon to tell reporters: “I thought we had spurts of good hockey, but you have to play 60 minutes.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, MSG Plus (New York), FSN North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (5-3-1): Jordan Eberle, who played his first seven seasons in Edmonton, hasn’t scored in his first nine games with New York but recorded his first multi-point contest Tuesday by assisting on Tavares’ first two goals. Eberle and Tavares are joined on a line by Lee, who recorded an assist Tuesday and has five points (three goals) in his last three games. Josh Bailey extended his point streak to four games (two goals, three assists) with an assist versus Arizona while Nelson’s goals have come in the last six contests.
ABOUT THE WILD (2-3-2): Power forward Chris Stewart is off to a fast start with six goals on 14 shots, including one tally in each of the two games prior to Tuesday, after recording 13 in 79 games last season. Captain Mikko Koivu, who along with Eric Staal has three goals this season, had a five-game point streak (three goals, two assists) snapped Tuesday. Forward Justin Kloos, who was named Mr. Hockey in Minnesota as a high school senior in 2012, made his NHL debut Tuesday and took a penalty in 8:39 of ice time.
1. The Islanders are 2-for-28 with the man advantage this season while allowing a power-play goal in four of their last five games.
2. LW Tyler Ennis, who has two goals in his first seven games with the Wild, needs one to reach 100 for his career.
3. Minnesota LW Zach Parise, who hasn’t played this season, underwent back surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss 8-to-10 weeks. Parise hasn’t played a full season since the 48-game 2012-13 lockout-abbreviated campaign - his first with the Wild, missing 48 contests over the next four years.
PREDICTION: Islanders 3, Wild 2