After a run of 12 of 14 on the road, the Islanders have played the fewest home games (11) of any NHL team. Beginning tonight that changes, as the NHL decided to give them the next 10 games in the New York metro area: Eight games at home, plus two in that glitzy garden that's filled with the stench of Glen Sather's
Their first opponent is the Bruins, who the Islanders have outplayed in two previous meetings this year. But how have the Bruins done since the Isles cruised by them 3-1 in Boston? They've won 8 of 10. Sure, three of those were shootout "wins," but all told the B's have nabbed either a regulation win or tie in 9 of those 10 games. Doesn't sound like we'll see the same sluggish (and injury-laden) squad we saw in the first month and a half.
If you want to go further into the "different team" mode, twice in the last week the Bruins easily handled the Leafs -- who, twice in the last few weeks, outplayed the Islanders. And now it's the Islanders who are a bit banged up.
Doug Weight of course remains out for the foreseeable future. Andy Sutton, who initially looked like he might be back tonight, now sounds like a prudent scratch. (Don't mess with groin injuries, particularly on an injury-prone big man.) Minus Sutton, Jesse Joensuu enters the lineup for his season debut as the Islanders' biggest body. I'm not necessarily expecting to see a Finn Named Jesse on the powerplay, but you better believe I'll be ticked if I see Jon Sim out there instead of him. When on the extra-man unit, Sim has played the Matt Moulson role: Stand in front of the net and tip stuff. Except Moulson has been able to produce, whereas Sim's teammates hardly even send the puck his way.
Also aiding the powerplay will be a second consecutive appearance from Rob Schremp, who looked good the other night.
Chris Botta projects "tentative" lines like so (below), which would be a twisted sort of awesome sauce:
Moulson - Tavares - Okposo
Sim - Nielsen - Hunter
Joensuu - Schremp - Comeau
Bailey - Thompson - Park
Of course, then there's the blueline... (I'll stop, okay, enough). I ... if Bailey is playing on the left wing "to get more ice time," I naturally don't see the fit with Thompson and Park. Either someone is confused, or someone is fibbing, or we're all just experiencing business as usual as Islanders fans. Harumph.
I do agree with Scott Gordon that Frans Nielsen is very proficient in his defensive duties -- that cannot be argued, at this point. But even I, as a registered Frans Fanboy, want to see more offense from the Dane so that I may call him Great. If that side never develops further, he becomes the top-notch third-line center that I figure he'll ultimately be, anyway. Hopefully Josh eventually develops into a #2 to be proud of. (For the record, I have lots of patience -- no panic over a 20-year-old on this front.)
If you want Bruins lines (and referees), Kevin Paul Dupont has 'em:
Keep an eye on defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who has a really nice shot and has returned after a healthy stay in the Rob Schremp Box.
How This Game Will Go
If only I knew. But the Bruins' special teams have been hot -- the PK all year long (it's 1st overall, at a silly 86.4%), and the PP lately. Also, the Bruins win 53.6% of their faceoffs, the Islanders 48.8. Of course, the Islanders' figure is skewed by the fact they've played 20 of 31 on the road, so ... hope.
It'd be nice if the Islanders came out in Optimal Gordon Performance Mode, then earned some powerplays and converted. But the converting could be the hardest part -- surely, the Bruins have video on the last two games and know where John Tavares will be on the PP, right?
About Last Night: Not Your Average DiPietro Injury
So as has been the story since 2006, Rick DiPietro looked quite good in his second AHL Bridgeport start last night, then took himself out of the game after stopping 13 of 14 in two periods. "Unrelated" tightness? Well we'll see. Such is the mantra for his entire comeback. I'm glad he's being cautious instead of forcing things like a tough guy. But I'm not looking forward to increasing my understanding of how Thrashers fans feel with the Kari Lehtonen Experience.
Game thread as usual tonight. I will try to catch this one live, but a family gig and then the duties of holiday
emergency room visiting light hanging may take me away. So have fun, and...
Let's. Go. Islanders.