The Hurricanes did God's work last night and thumped the Rangers at the Garden, giving Carolina three wins in four. It was difficult to tell how good their performance was, though: The Rangers came out flat, Henrik Lundqvist allowed a few soft goals, and Cam Ward made several spectacular saves that might have altered things.
Bottom line, the until-recently-30th-place Canes caused the Rangers to be booed off the ice after each period, so we owe them flowers. Being gracious hosts, they should hand us two points.
When Matt Moulson had his first multi-goal NHL game back in November, he disclosed that a friend texted him before the game that he needed a big fantasy night out of him. Well, it's been five games since Moulson's last multi-goal game, and he's sitting on 19 for the season, and I'd like him to be the first to 20. So if someone could go ahead and text that favor in to him, that'd be great. Thaaaanks.
In terms of the season, this road trip is kind of a big deal. As many have mentioned, there are some winnable games ahead and some teams that must be beaten if the Islanders want to continue to be taken seriously. With the breathtaking cluster of 6th through 13th in the East separated by one freaking point, there will be no better opportunity to make a move. With two games each against Carolina and Tampa Bay plus one each against Philadelphia and Florida before the
Amateur Ideals Commercial Olympics break, important conference opponents beckon.
Lineup Shenanigans: How 'bout a scratch?
While Cam Ward played last night, Manny Legace has played exactly two full games since Ward returned from his laceration injury. So they don't appear to be seeking rest for Ward, and I don't have my hopes up. Legace's generosity was an assist in the Islanders' last win over the Canes.
As for the Islanders' net, there is the matinee Saturday in Philadelphia followed by a game in Florida Sunday night. Someone's getting two of the next three starts. My money's on Dwayne Roloson, but I'm sure our lone traveling beatwriter will provide updates during the day if morning skate order is clear or Scott Gordon bothers to divulge those plans.
But about those plans: I'm a believer in healthy scratches. Particularly after big losses. It's fine and dandy to wipe a bad loss off as a mulligan -- "Hey, everybody sucked, no one's the scapegoat here, let's move on, etc." But it's also a perfect time to keep things fresh and remind everyone no one's spot in the lineup is safe. Of course, with the Islanders carrying three goalies and an open spot on the roster (presumably for when Tim Jackman and/or Brendan Witt return from IR), there's only one guy to cycle in, and he's the one guy Gordon appears reluctant to use. Suffice to say, if Jeff Tambellini does not make an appearance tonight, then barring injury I don't expect to see him in uniform again. Because when, if not now?
It's not like you're sitting an enforcer for a month here -- you're sitting a guy who can score a few goals.
I'm sure this will shock you, but yes, the Hurricanes are another team with superior special teams to the Islanders (79.2/17.9 vs. 75.1/16.5). The Rangers also gave them multiple opportunities to practice both last night, giving them that "on a roll" feeling.
I'm Here to Talk about the Past
After absorbing some serious beatings from the Hurricanes last year, the Islanders have thus far won both meetings -- albeit in extra time after blowing third-period leads. Most recently in November, Kyle Okposo told the H1N1 virus who's boss, with another in one should be a long line of OT goals over the next decade. The prior meeting in October, the Islanders picked up their first "win" of the season via post-game breakaway drill.
Last season, including that nightmarish 9-0 loss, the Islanders were 0-4 against the Hurricanes. They already cannot return the favor because they've conceded two OT points to the Canes. Still, vengeance is due.
Prediction: 4-3 Islanders. Nails are chewed, but Isles win one for Jack.