Finally, Islanders hockey: We've had the nerve-wracking fortune-gazing of the lottery, the nerve-wracking Snow-gazing of the draft, the crickets chirping of the second free agency period of this rebuild, all amid the constant backdrop of the Lighthouse Project's political stops and starts and Charles Wang's deadline. It's been a long summer.
But tonight it's all hockey, with all the fantastically over-the-top ain't-hockey-grand festivities of a home opener. Plus the formal debut of some guy wearing #91 in Islanders blue.
And a captain wearing #93. With a healthy scratch not wearing #57? [Update: In a new turn, prudence wins the day: Weight is indeed held out; Comeau is said to be sick. So much for relying on the official site's preview.]
When the schedule was announced this summer, you had to see this opening date against Stanley Cup champs and hope the Penguins win their banner raising opener the night before (check), so that they'll have a bit of a hangover tonight on Long Island (still pending, but can't blame a gal for hoping).
Problem is, the Penguins have a dynamic duo who can change a bad game in the third period in the flip of a switch. You may have heard of them ... Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko. Helping them are hard-working supporting cast members such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- the plumbers of our game. Wait ... did I get that right?
Scott Gordon is continuing his policy of not
knowing when his starting goalie is injured announcing his starting goalie in advance, so we can continue debating the merits of Dwayne Roloson vs. Martin Biron for his opening night statement. The real intrigue will be how each performs in the opening weeks -- and we have five days before the second game -- and how it affects the way Gordon uses them. A goalie battle is always good fun when there isn't the soap-operatic sideshow of one guy being insulted because he's paid to be the starter.
The lineup was discussed earlier but could still be in flux. But the official site's lineup includes Doug Weight [well, this a.m. it did; now in the p.m. he's out] -- who you better believe wants to be dressed on his first (and last?) opening night as new captain -- while Blake Comeau and Joel Rechlicz are out. Since I'll be at the Coliseum tonight, I confess I won't mind if Weight takes the ice in uniform for that big moment. Comeau's return to healthy scratch land will make for discussion fodder between now and Ottawa.
Some other bits:
- Don't worry, Wang says tonight is about hockey and he won't turn it into Deadline Day. [Newsday]
- Katie Strang's bits column followed up on some things mentioned in her chat. Based on practice lines, at least, Blake Comeau could actually be a healthy scratch.
- Opening night: Occasion for pomp, circumstance and even a little attention from the NY Post. Context money quote from Josh Bailey: "We're not here to finish 30th."
- Finally, a funny misprint at the New York Times: "Atlantic Division at the Nexus of NHL Universe." Silly rabbit. We know you meant "New York."
- Personally, I'm bummed that Islanders Outsider won't make tonight's game, but he had some nice takes on the latest news, including this on the captaincy: "I'm a little turned off by the trend of handing over the leadership reins of a team to the young star before he's old enough to rent a car." So he can dig the Weight move.
- If you're new to Lighthouse Hockey, the lengthy preview to the Islanders' season is here. (Apologies for The Thin Red Line state of mind.)
Sorry for the late post this morning: I'm in New York, recovering from an evening of travel and connecting with Mike and Doug, who served as gracious host for this carpetbaggin' Islanders fan. Crazy weekend for me as I try to meet up with lots of people I've encountered on the Interwebs while also treating Mrs. Lighthouse to a proper visit in the city. (Aside: If you're there, I'd love to cross paths. I'll be tailgating and in section 333 wearing an old Bossy away/blue jersey ... not that that helps much. I expect to be wandering in a giddy state of awe all night.)
There will be an open game thread tonight. Discuss the pre-game/lineup/your idle trade fantasies etc. here, while chatting up the game to your heart's content there. And if you're out of market, remember that NHL Center Ice is doing a free preview through most of October.
Game on, baby.