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New York Islanders

Playoff Gameday: Islanders Expecting Desperate Flyers Team in Game 5

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New York Islanders celebrate goal

The New York Islanders can punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993 with a win tonight in Game 5. The only thing standing in their way: The Philadelphia Flyers.

Up 3-1 in the Second Round Series, the Islanders fully understand that the Flyers will be as desperate as they come to keep their season alive and buck history. The Flyers are 1-17 all-time when they trail a series 3-1, according to Eric Hornick, while the Islanders are a perfect 10-0.

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“They’re obviously desperate. They’re going to bring their best game and you have to match that desperation with the same intensity,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “The same determination to get the fourth win. The fourth win is always the toughest. It’s the one that you have to go through. No one is going to give it to you. You can’t go around it, you have to go through it, and have that little bit of killer instinct.”

The Flyers have jumped out to quick starts during the series against the Islanders and New York has had to battle back from deficits in two of the four games so far. While the Flyers scoring has been limited, they have created chances and forced Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss to make some tough saves.

The focus for tonight will be preventing them from generating too many chances early on.

“They have a lot of skill up front,” Ryan Pulock said. “It’s going to be important for us tonight to be hard in our D zone. All five guys and kind of end their cycle game. Just be smart in the neutral zone. Not letting guys behind you. They like to flip it a bit and they like to stretch the zone a bit.

“It’s going to be important that we’re aware of that and just keeping your play in front of you.”

Tonight’s game comes with plenty of significance for the New York Islanders, who will move on to the conference finals for the first time in 27 years with a win. It will be the furthest that several of the longest-tenured Islanders will have gone in the playoffs.

That certainly has the fans licking their chops and could be an easy distraction for the players on the ice if they let their imagination get ahead of themselves. Anders Lee said that the chance to move to the conference finals for the first time since 1993 is very special, but the team is focused on just one game at a time.

Islanders Goalies Have Full Trust of Trotz and Team

“For today it’s all about tonight,” Lee said. “Those (accomplishments) will come if we take care of business at the right time. In a playoff run like this, it’s hard not to, at times, to daydream and to have wonderful thoughts, but you have a task at hand that day. You can’t get ahead of yourself because there is too much competition on either side to really look forward at all.

“That day to day grind and focus is extremely important.”

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers will do their best to change the course of history tonight, or at the very least extend the series one more game. Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault said his team had a “great opportunity” tonight.

“This game in front of us should bring out the best in players,” Vigneault said. “I’m confident with our group. We responded well. We responded well last game. We didn’t get the win, but we played well enough to win.”

Vigneault wouldn’t give too much details about his lineup tonight, but there is a chance there could be a lineup change. However, it most likely won’t be Oskar Lindblom. He will take warmups with the team though.

Game Notes

Josh Bailey tied Derek King for most assists in a single postseason when he picked up his 10th and 11th in Game 4. King set the record during the 1984-85 postseason. … Jean-Gabriel Pageau tied Anthony Beauvillier for the team lead in goals this postseason when he recorded his seventh goal on Sunday in Game 4. … The Islanders have been a perfect 10-0 when allowing two or fewer goals in the playoffs this year. … The Flyers’ 38 shots on net in Game 4 was the highest they’ve recorded this postseason. … Philadelphia is 8-1 when scoring the game’s first goal in the playoffs this year. Game 4 was the first time they lost after scoring the opening goal. … The Flyers are 36-27 all-time in Game 5s.

How to Watch

Locally the game will air on NBCSN. On the radio dial, the game will air on 98.7 FM ESPN New York, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.

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Free Agency

A Look at What Ryan Pulock’s New Contract Might be with Islanders | NYHN+

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New York Islanders Defenceman Ryan Pulock (6) in action during a regular season NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders on November 30, 2019, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

Former New York Islanders defenseman and restricted free agent Devon Toews received his payday on Tuesday, and soon Ryan Pulock will be looking for his.

The 26-year-old defenseman is also an RFA and remains unsigned by the Isles. Pulock elected to file for arbitration and is scheduled for a hearing on Nov. 6. The Islanders would like to have his contract handled before that date, but Pulock is due for a major raise from his previous two-year, $4 million bridge deal he signed in 2018.

Pulock has become a top-pairing defenseman for the Islanders, who logged an average of 22:24 of ice time per game this past season. It was the second consecutive year that Pulock has averaged more than 20 minutes a game and he is constantly up against the opposing team’s top players.

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New York Islanders

It’s Time: Free Josh Ho-Sang or Move On

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Josh Ho-Sang

Enough, already. The New York Islanders and GM Lou Lamoriello have made their point. It’s time to free Josh Ho-Sang. Play him in the NHL or let the young man pursue opportunities elsewhere.

#FreeJoshHoSang

Tuesday, the Islanders avoided arbitration with Ho-Sang and signed him to a $700,000 NHL contract, or $225,000 in the minors.

It’s been a long fall for the 2014 first-round pick (28th overall).

My hockey career has been as varied as it has been enjoyable. From a syndicated radio show in the friendly confines of the NHL’s largest fanbase to Pittsburgh, then to the minors, back to Pittsburgh, and eventually creating National Hockey Now.

After 20 years, I’ve seen almost every situation.

I’ve had dinner with players who were supposedly bad apples or struggling to adopt the NHL way. They are rarely the people reflected in the public portrayals. Usually, it’s a misunderstanding.

I’ve met young men being drafted and wanting nothing else for their life but to light the lamp in the greatest hockey league in the world.

After their big day, I’ve sat with those same players on long bus rides and in locker rooms. I’ve heard their frustration as organizations heap tough love with a shovel, usually because the player doesn’t adequately cover their own zone or don’t get their nose dirty enough.

Or doesn’t bear the tough love with a smile and a gee golly acceptance.

In his first 43 NHL games, Ho-Sang had six goals and 16 assists, which is .5 points per game. There are a lot of NHL players who cannot boast such totals. And Ho-Sang has more to give.

Despite his initial choice of numbers (No. 66), for which I will forever associate with mine and Ho-Sang’s childhood hockey hero, Mario Lemieux, I root for him to break the stranglehold the New York Islanders have placed upon his career.

Conform or else!

For some players, the answer is “or else,” not because they’re misanthropic or contrarian, but because they know they can help in other ways, and what is asked of them is as foreign as the Chinese alphabet.

Ahem, Phil Kessel. You may have heard from your Pittsburgh Penguins friends that Phil has two Stanley Cup rings?

Until Kessel and his coaches clashed, Kessel enjoyed a rebirth because someone appreciated him and let him be him. The situation eventually soured, because Kessel is a bit of a contrarian, but would either side trade those Cups?

Ho-Sang’s story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. I’ve sat at Denny’s on a Sunday morning after long bus trips and looked at players whose heart weighed 20 pounds because all they want is to play in the NHL, and they don’t truly understand why they’re banished to the minors.

They bounce to the minors, exiled from their dreams until they conform to the visions of an NHL coach or GM who demand something different than they’ve ever been.

It’s the equivalent of those snotty couples on HGTV who “love” the home they’re viewing until the wife invariably lists two dozen changes and hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades. You want to scream, “Don’t buy the house!”

He’s Back! Josh Ho-Sang Returns to Islanders on 1-Year Deal

But I can turn the channel, hopeful that I’ll never again be in such a situation.

The New York Islanders bought Josh Ho-Sang, full well knowing they were getting a skilled player with rough edges. Did they think they could miraculously make him someone else?

#FreeJoshHoSang

One player you may remember (but I won’t name), who later became a bit notorious, looked at me over his stack of eggs and pancakes in a tiny ECHL city, shook his head, and muttered a few expletives. You don’t need direct quotes to get the gist.

He bounced around the minors for a couple of years, finally got his shot in the NHL in his mid-20s, punched a few opponents hard enough to get a new contract, and performed well enough to stick around for a few years before cashing in across the pond.

But he never lost that bitterness. It changed his career because his drafting team wanted him to be someone else, and they felt they needed to send him a message.

Three other members of that team were also high-round picks. They too were sent to the minors to receive their tough love.

One soon after bolted to Russia. Another succumbed to personal demons and another exclaimed something similar to, “Take this job and shove it.”

That NHL team sure proved its point, didn’t it?

I’ve met Josh Ho-Sang and players like him. I gravitate towards them because I feel a kinship with fighting the establishment.

The National Hockey Now family, including this coverage outlet, is the birth of raging against an obtuse machine, which didn’t understand the changing world and the wide range of additional skills available to it.

Ho-Sang’s game is clearly changing and not for the better. Years of being told he must change have taken a toll. He’s no longer the strident kid who knew he could play in the NHL. He scored only two points (1g, 1a) in his most recent 10-game stint in 2018-19.

Last season, he was even banished from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers while Lamoriello allowed his camp to facilitate a trade. Eventually, Chris Lamoriello played peacemaker and Ho-Sang was loaned to San Antonio.

Wouldn’t you have a salty ‘tude if you were trapped by a team which neither likes nor releases you?

At 24-years-old, Ho-Sang is no longer a “prospect.” He had 13 points (4g, 9a) in just 22 games split between Bridgeport and San Antonio of the AHL last season.

Trust me, the NHL conformity standards are brutal. In hockey circles, it’s OK to break a player until they conform. It’s time for that to end.

The young man of color already has a harder road than most, just to get to the NHL. It doesn’t need to be any harder. The New York Islanders should finally decide. They can promote the best of Ho-Sang and let coach Barry Trotz work with the worst, or they can punish him for the worst and live without the best.

Either way, whether it’s NHL ice, or free agency, it’s time. For Josh Ho-Sang and for the New York Islanders. #FreeJoshHoSang

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Bridgeport Sound Tigers

He’s Back! Josh Ho-Sang Returns to Islanders on 1-Year Deal

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Josh Ho-Sang

If you thought Josh Ho-Sang’s time with the New York Islanders was over, guess again.

The Islanders and Josh Ho-Sang came to terms on a 1-year contract extension on Tuesday and avoided an arbitration hearing which had been scheduled for Friday. The short-term deal is worth $700,000 if he plays in the NHL and $200,000 if he ends up in Bridgeport, according to Elliotte Friedman who first reported the news on Tuesday morning.

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Ho-Sang has had a rocky history with the Islanders since the organization drafted him 29th overall in 2014. The now 24-year-old forward has struggled to crack the Islanders lineup and his outspoken nature has often caused himself headaches.

Josh Ho-Sang requested a trade last season and was told by Islanders general manager not to report to AHL Bridgeport while they worked to find a place to send him. The naturally skilled forward did end up reporting to Bridgeport after the Islanders failed to move him and they eventually loaned Ho-Sang to St. Louis’ AHL team in San Antonio.

Ho-Sang has appeared in 53 NHL games with the Islanders and registered seven goals and 17 assists in that span.

Both the Islanders decision to send Ho-Sang a qualifying offer and then Ho-Sang’s decision to file for arbitration surprised many people. Lamoriello sounded perplexed several weeks ago when he was asked about it during a media conference call on Zoom.

“I’m sure you’re all aware that he filed for arbitration, which I was very surprised at,” Lamoriello said at the time. “We’ll have to see what the future brings.”

It’s unclear what role the Islanders envision for Ho-Sang going into next season.

In addition, the Islanders also announced that A.J. Greer had signed a one-year contract as well. Greer was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade that saw the Islanders send Kyle Burroughs to the Mile High City.

Greer had been a restricted free agent.

Fellow RFA defensemen Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon signed two-year contract extensions on Tuesday as well.

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