GDHQNHL15_2pg-New York Islanders 1

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New York ISLANDERS Key Additions: C Mikhail Grabovski; LW Nikolai Kulemin; G Jaroslav Halak; G Chad Johnson; D T.J. Brennan; LW Cory Conacher Key Subtractions: G Evgeni Nabokov; LW Thomas Vanek; D Andrew McDonald Strengths: Roster depth at almost every position Weaknesses: Penalty kill, defense, goaltending Offense If the Islanders are to get back into the playoffs – they have missed six of the last seven years, including last season – and make their final season in Uniondale a memorable one, they have to improve over last year’s 16th-place showing in goals scored. Of course, if the team wasn’t 28th in goals allowed, there wouldn’t be quite the need for a giant increase in goals. A healthy John Tavares is a good place to start. He was active for only 59 games last year but still scored 24 goals. He suffered a partially torn MCL in the Olympics and never returned to the lineup. He didn’t need surgery is ready to go and should again be one of the league’s best scorers. He’ll work again next to Kyle Okposo, who led the Isles with 27 goals last year, a career high. Though his production has been a bit erratic, he has the potential to be a steady producer every season. The third man on whom the Islanders can rely is center Fans Nielsen, who also had a career year last year, registering 25 scores. Perhaps he and Okposo thrived because Tavares was out, but each provides some fortification. So do newcomers Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin—or so New York hopes. The two combined for 59 goals when they played together in Toronto in 2010-11 and are likely to occupy the same line. Neither has come close to that type of production in the ensuing three seasons, but the hope is that they will provide complementary scoring assistance. Last year’s fourth-leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, is gone, so the Islanders must hope the newcomers will deliver, along with center Brock Nelson and wingers Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck. None will be front-line weapons, but they can help on lower lines. Meanwhile, Josh Bailey is a solid set-up man. Defense New York spent some money to upgrade its forward lines, but it didn’t do too much to help the defense. Perhaps GM Garth Snow thinks that by upgrading—or at least changing—the goaltending situation, there is no need for personnel movement along the blue line. New York did lose Andrew McDonald, but his 24 points and minus-19 rating in just 63 games aren’t likely to be missed all that much. If Lubomir Visnovsky can coax a healthy year out of his 38-year EASTERN CONFERENCE METROPOLITAN DIVISION Kyle Okposo Gregory Shamus/NHL/Getty Images


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