First, one of those "life gets in the way" interruptions: The team bus for the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate, Albany River Rats, crashed last night on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and apparently four players and one staff member suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. Canes Country is keeping up on the situation as information comes out. Keep the entire Hurricanes organization in your thoughts.
Carolina Hurricanes (28-25-5, 9th) at New York Islanders (17-34-6, 30th)
7 p.m. | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum | MSG+
On to this diversion known as hockey: You can imagine the 'Canes family would be shaken up by the accident. One River Rat, defenseman Tim Conboy, has been called up and will play against the Islanders tonight -- and you know that some players on the big club are inevitably friends with players at their affiliate. If the Hurricanes come out flat tonight, despite their playoff push you could pardon the offense.
The reason for Conboy's recall? The Hurricanes blueline was banged up in their loss to the Bruins Tuesday. Stalled in ninth place and five points back of Buffalo and Florida, the Canes surely look at tonight's game and the next against the Lightning as games they simply must have.
You'll remember their captain, Rod Brind'Amour, perhaps as a Selke Trophy winner. While his past Selke credentials have been debated, his current form is nowhere near the Selke discussion. Worse, he hasn't scored. From Bubba's recap of Glen Wesley Night:
One might ask why Rod Brind'Amour was on the ice for the all important 4-on-3 advantage? Is he now one of the top three powerplay forwards on the team? The captain has not scored a goal in about two months and recently missed time due to some unknown ailment. In the meantime, red-hot Matt Cullen sat the bench for the entire sequence.
Meanwhile, with the Islanders coming off a disappointing loss to their glitzy overpaid rivals, it will be interesting to see how they respond on the second leg of this back-to-back. There was a time under Ted Nolan where the Islanders tended to have a post-Rangers "letdown." Not so under Scott Gordon: The effort is usually there -- and frankly, it's no more noticeable against the Rangers than any other team. It's the finishing that, like last night, is often lacking.
... Without Doug Weight, the Islanders powerplay has continued to underutilize its opportunities -- but it's by no means as bad as it was without Mark Streit.
... No update yet on Sean Bergenheim after the cheap knee from Erik Reitz.
... Streit got the lone goal last night on a great setup involving Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau, with Josh Bailey also on the ice. For Canes fans just visiting, those three and Frans Nielsen are the youngsters that give us hope. As for Streit, it's painful to imagine what this season would be like without him leading the way not just on the powerplay, not just in points, but as a very good all-around defenseman.
... When the Islanders have scored lately, it's involved that aforementioned group. Captain Bill Guerin hasn't scored in eight games, and Trent Hunter has been out with a hip injury -- part of a man-game/injury total that surpassed 350 last week.
... Have to figure Joey MacDonald goes in net tonight after Yann Danis started last night. Gordon seems to be rotating them healthily since MacDonald came back.
... As Doug at Official's Outlook prefaced before last night's game, look for MacDonald's rebounds and hope for the Islanders to shoot, shoot! more.
This is just the second meeting of the season for these teams. There will be two more down the stretch as the Canes make their playoff push. While spoiling the Rangers' season is now mostly beyond their control, the Islanders can still make a difference in the fate of the Natural Disasters.
This here blog was still transitioning from old habitats and my own "life interrupts" episode during that last matchup, but here's how it went, with that wild ending featuring a Doug Weight penalty shot with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.