Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
While several players in the Atlantic Division had noteworthy performances this past week, few if any players had as much influence in the outcome of their games as did forwards Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen who, along with linemate Kyle Okposo, dominated opponents over the last week. The trio were instrumental in the New York Islanders recent back-to-back wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Below are the three stars of the week for March 23-29.
First Star: Josh Bailey, LW, New York Islanders – The 22-year-old forward has played arguably the best hockey of his career of late, notching 10 points in his last four games including a five-point game Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His recent success is all the more dramatic considering that Bailey has struggled all season to find even a modicum of consistency. But, since the Islanders formed their second line at the beginning of March, the forward has 16 points in his last 14 games, which makes up over half of his point total (31) for the season.
Second Star: Frans Nielsen, C, New York Islanders – The Islanders second-line center has gradually asserted himself over the past two seasons as one of the better two-way players in the game. In the last two weeks, however, he looks to have established himself as a fairly solid offensive player as well. In the Islanders last four games, Nielsen has three goals and four assists, including two multi-point games. His most impressive performance over the past week was on March 27th, where he managed two goals and an assist in a surprising 8-4 win over the Penguins. Like Bailey, Nielsen has been hot of late, with four goals and five assists in his last six games.
Third Star: Pascal Dupuis, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins played four games this past week and were absolutely pounded, going 1-3 while allowing 20 goals. But little of the blame can fall on forward Pascal Dupuis, who extended his point-streak to 12 games, accumulating nine goals and six assists in the process. Dupuis has tallied these points with little ice time on the power play. Dupuis is amidst a career season, having managed 24 goals and 52 points in 77 games. He has played all over the lineup this season, most recently flanking Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils – The Devils exploded offensively against the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, beating them 6-4. The six goals matched a season-high for the Devils. New Jersey recently signed prospect David Wohlberg to a two-year entry-level deal. A center, Wohlberg spent the last four seasons with the Michigan Wolverines where he counted for 56 goals in four seasons.
New York Islanders – The Islanders have been red-hot as of late, winning three of their last four. Veteran goaltender John Grahame, who was the goaltender coach for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, signed a contract with the Islanders for the final 10 games of the season in the event starter Evgeni Nabokov does not return from a lower body injury.
New York Rangers – The Rangers will look to get their 50th win of the season when they host the Montreal Canadiens tonight in what will be the final time the two teams meet this season.
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers pulled within two points of the Penguins for the fourth seed in the Eastern conference playoff race when they steamrolled the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, 7-1.
Pittsburgh Penguins – With back-to-back losses against the Islanders, the Penguins record without defenseman Kris Letang has dropped to 17-13, including overtime and shootout losses. With the Letang in the lineup, the Penguins are 30-17.