Islanders forwards Blais, Sprong played together as kids

Jason Malloy
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Daniel Sprong's new linemate is an old linemate.

Samuel Blais played summer hockey with Sprong for a few years until they were 10 or 11 years old.

The day after Sprong was sent back to junior by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders traded for Blais. They played their first game together Monday in Sydney, N.S., against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

"Standing with each other again to start the game was pretty good," Sprong said Tuesday. "To see that were both doing well and how small the world is that we're playing with each other again."

Sprong scored twice and Blais set both of them up as the Islanders won 4-1.

"I was happy to have that same chemistry we had when we were younger," the sniper said. "He made some great plays, especially on the breakaway, he made a great pass."

With his team up 3-1 heading to the third period, Sprong had a message for his teammates.

"I told the players in between the periods we're all still getting evaluated and we have to prove that we belong together as a team," he said. "That's one game in the second half and we have 32 left, but we just have to keep making progress each game."

The Islanders (14-19-2-1) look to win back-to-back games tonight for the first time since beating Baie-Comeau 5-1 on Oct. 17 and Cape Breton 5-2 on Oct. 22.

Blais, Sprong and recently acquired defenceman Guillaume Beaudry play their first games of the season at the Eastlink Centre tonight against the Moncton Wildcats (25-10-4-0) at 7 p.m.

Head coach Jim Hulton said he saw his team believe in themselves as Monday's game progressed.

"You want your team to expect to win, not hope to win," he said. "Having some tough-flight guys gives that boost to the room."

The Islanders will be looking to slow down the league's leading scorer in Conor Garland tonight. He has 23 goals and 60 assists for 83 points in 34 games.

"It's a big task," Hulton admitted.

A couple of the team's second-half goals are to increase their puck possession while playing more disciplined.

"If you give Garland extra time and extra space he's going to make you pay," Hulton said.

Matthew Welsh gets the start tonight for the Isles.

Hulton said Sprong has given the team a needed sparked and not just on the score sheet. He pointed out Sprong showed up to the rink at 8:15 a.m. for a 10 a.m. practice and has good communication skills on the bench.

"I thought his impact was equally important off the ice as on the ice because he's brought a professionalism right off the hop."

Hulton said Sprong wants to be a penalty killer, a leader and part of a winning culture in Charlottetown.

Organizations: Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Eastlink Centre

Geographic location: Sydney, Charlottetown

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