BY: DAVID KOLB
FLORIDA PANTHERS (18-16-8) @ NEW YORK ISLANDERS (15-15-8)
BACK-TO-BACK WITH CATS
Tonight, the New York Islanders host the Florida Panthers at Barclays Center for the first time since their first-round playoff matchup last spring. The contest will serve as the first game of a back-to-back set, and the second of three games the teams play against each other this season. In the season series opener, the Panthers edged the Isles 3-2 in overtime. New York will try to rebound tonight after dropping games in Colorado and Arizona, while the Panthers have won two out of their last three games, including blanking the New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Saturday.
HAMONIC OUT; PELECH IN
Travis Hamonic is listed as day-to-day and is doubtful for tonight’s tilt against the Panthers. The 26-year-old backliner left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury and has not returned to the ice since. Slotting into the lineup will be 22-year-old Adam Pelech, who has a goal and two assists in nine games with the big club this season. This will be Pelech’s first game with the Islanders since Nov. 28.
MORE ‘O’ FROM THE ‘C’
John Tavares was named to the All-Star Game this week. However, he is looking to get over a recent rough patch, as he’s gone pointless in the past two games. This season, No. 91 only has 11 goals and 16 assists (27 points) in 38 games, which projects to be his least productive season since his rookie campaign in 2009-2010.
BARKOV MISSED UP FRONT
The Panthers, who rank 27th in goals per game will be without leading scorer Aleksander Barkov once again, as he has been shelved since Dec. 28. The Panthers top center has missed six games, yet remains the team leader in points scored with nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points.
BOYCHUCK HEATING UP
In his 500th career NHL game, Isles’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk tallied an assist on the lone Islanders’ goal Saturday against the Coyotes. No. 55 is playing the best hockey of his season and has now strung together points (one goal, two assists) in three straight games. In 37 games this season, Boychuk has five goals and nine assists for 14 points.