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New York Islanders

Playoff Gameday: Islanders Game 4 Lines and Notes vs. Capitals

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The New York Islanders will try to repeat history tonight when they look to complete the sweep of the Washington Capitals in the First Round of the playoffs.

The Islanders haven’t waivered from their message about just how tough a task that will be. Andy Greene was the latest member of the team to highlight that point when he spoke to reporters this afternoon over Zoom.

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“We’re going to get their best game tonight,” Greene said. “We have to be able to match it and be a determined group out there. It is always the toughest game and we have to make sure we’re ready right from the start. We know they’re going to be ready and we have to go from there.”

Greene and Leo Komarov were made available to the media this afternoon so it’s safe to assume the two will remain in the lineup for Game 4. Thus, the Islanders lineup will remain unchanged from the previous game.

The Islanders have iced the same lineup since Game 4 of the Qualifying Round against the Florida Panthers.

Semyon Varlamov will return to guard the net as well after a stellar performance in game 3. Varlamov made 22 saves and had his most notably strong effort of the playoffs.

Ahead of Game 4, the Islanders message has remained consistent and simple: Stick to the gameplan. The Islanders have continued to be dominant when they stick to their style of play and keep the game at five on five.

That hasn’t changed.

“Play our game. Do what we do,” Trotz said about the messaging to his team. “Get to our game. Get to it quickly and stay with it.”

Tonight marks the second time this postseason that the Islanders have been in a position to sweep a team. The Islanders had a 2-0 series lead in the Qualifying Round heading into Game 3, which the Islanders lost 3-2 to Florida.

Trotz doesn’t want to see the Islanders do a whole lot differently from Game 3 against the Panthers, but mentioned he’d like to see them play a little less loose than they did then.

“I thought we actually played pretty well in that game,” Trotz said. “The number one thing is get to our identity quick. Get to our game quick and have a good start. See if we can continue on. I thought we were a little bit loose in that game. I just don’t want us to be loose.

“I think we understand what’s at stake. We understand our opponent. I didn’t like our game in some areas last game. Hopefully, we tighten that up and we’re better today.”

The Islanders bench boss was likely referring to the team’s power play, which struggled last game and went 0-for-5.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS PROJECTED LINES

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey

Derick Brassard — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Leo Komarov

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

DEFENSE

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy — Andy Greene

GOALIES

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Washington Capitals

We’ll know at game time if Nicklas Backstrom is back in the Capitals lineup tonight. Washington head coach Todd Reirden said that he would be a game-time decision.

Backstrom has missed the last two games of the series following a hit by Anders Lee in the first period of Game 1.

“Nick was on the ice with us for the entire practice,” Reirden said after the Capitals morning skate. “Like him and a few other guys it’s a game-time decision for what our lineup is come 8 O’clock tonight.”

Martin Fehervary did not skate this morning with the Capitals, however, and he will not play in Game 4, Reirden said. Fehervary saw 11:31 of ice time during Game 3 against the New York Islanders.

The Capitals will try to bring the physicality right off the bat to throw the Islanders off their game. Reirden is preaching the mentality of just focusing at the task at hand.

“Right now all we’re focusing on is winning one hockey game,” Reirden said. “That starts with beating the guy across from you and doing it continually. Shift after shift and that’s where our mindset is right now.”

Banner Time! Islanders Fan Sending Aerial Support to Team in Toronto

Game Notes

The Islanders have had 3-0 series leads 10 previous times in franchise history. They closed out all 10 series, with sweeps occurring in seven of them. … The Islanders extended their stretch of allowing fewer than 30 shots to eight games. This is the first time they’ve done since a stretch in April-May of 1984. … Anders Lee enters tonight’s game with a three-game point streak (three goals). It is the longest point streak among Islanders players during this postseason. … The Capitals are 23-21 all-time in Game 4 situations. … Alex Ovechkin has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 20 career game 4s. … Braden Holtby is one win away from becoming the 21st goaltender in league history to record 50 wins in the playoffs.

HOW TO WATCH

Locally the game will air on MSG+ and MSG GO, and nationally on NBCSN. For those outside the New York market, the game can also be streamed on NHL.TV. 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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