"Be ready," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "No matter how much you talk about it, until you experience the way [the Islanders] play nobody else in the league plays like that. You can watch it on tape all day, but you've got to witness it on the ice."
Yes, well that's the idea, isn't it? But of course the Islanders' execution of late has made that Hitchcock insight -- uttered not last month but on the eve of this very game -- sound like more punchline than advance scouting insight.
New York Islanders (10-17-2) at Columbus Blue Jackets (12-13-3)
7 p.m. EST | [mortgage-like substance] Arena | MSG+2 (twice the plus!)
Blue Jackets blog: Light the Lamp
The Islanders gave Hitchcock a taste of this treatment in their first meeting, building a lead before blowing it, then bailing themselves out on Chris Campoli's OT double-goal. Normally, I'd look forward to this match as a demonstration of Hitchcockian suffocation versus Gordonic overspeed. But the way the Isles have played lately -- and with several speedsters hurt -- I'm not expecting a fair example of Gordon's m.o.
Still, Gordon spent practice drilling better habits back into their heads, after they've bled goals and ignored backchecking in recent games. Quoth Lord Overspeed:
"This needs to be addressed, and it probably should have been addressed three games ago. The goals that are going in are because of our lack of awareness and our lack of effort without the puck coming back into our zone. There's not a system in the world that's going to cover your rear end if you don't have awareness and you don't have a commitment to get back to your zone."
Thanks to a Mike Sillinger groin injury, Jon Sim gets a reprieve tonight ... Joey MacDonald is surely back in goal, as we're likely not to hear from Yann Danis again until the next Rick DiPietro injury ... Doug Weight is 4 points away from 1,000 ... The Isles have never won at [mortgage-like substance] Arena ... If the Islanders salvage a win, or quasi-SO win, or loser point -- anything -- out of tonight's game, it will be their only point(s) on this four-game trip.