COLUMBUS, Ohio - You have to go back to 2007-08 to find a season in which the Islanders were a top-10 faceoff team. With their core of centers, the Isles have been under 50 percent on draws pretty consistently.
So far in this season, that has changed dramatically. The Isles entered Tuesday night's game leading the league by winning 55.9 percent of their faceoffs. Among NHLers who have taken at least 60 draws, Frans Nielsen ranked fifth, winning 45 of 75 (60 percent).
There are new faceoff rules in the league this season. The defending center must put his stick down first as opposed to the visiting center putting his stick down first in previous years. But Nielsen, whose career faceoff percentage hovers around 48, said the new rules haven't mattered much.
"It's not that, it's just a few different things I think," Nielsen said before the game. "I'm feeling good in there so far and my linemates have been jumping in to support really well. I can't really say what it is."
John Tavares takes the majority of Islanders draws and he is off to a strong start, as well, winning 53 of 93 (57 percent). Tavares actually doesn't like the new rules that much. "I think if you have the advantage, you should be able to dictate whether you put your stick down first or second," he said. "Some guys like being first in there. Honestly, I think the linesmen are still figuring out the new rules."
Isles stick with lineup
There were no changes in the Islanders lineup, with Jaroslav Halak making his second straight start in goal and Brian Strait, Eric Boulton and Steve Bernier healthy scratches.
Columbus, searching for a spark, scratched Cam Atkinson and sat struggling goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.