UPDATE: The New York Islanders announced today that forward Josh Bailey has been assigned on loan to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL). Bailey, 21, has six points (three goals, three assists) in 18 games this season with the Islanders. In 159 career NHL games, all with the Islanders, the Bowmanville, ON native has scored 66 points (26 goals, 40 assists).
Original preview resumes here: The Blue Jackets are unveiling new third jerseys tonight (in a mall, at home, during 1st intermission) with a new logo. Based on descriptions -- "cannon will aim left to right" -- I think I know what it's all about:
Columbus Blue Jackets (13-6-0, 6th) @ New York Islanders (4-12-4, 30th)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
7 p.m. EST | MSG+ - audio - WRHU 88.7
Ready to pop a cannon in our arse(nal): The Cannon
I put "weak" in quotes earlier this week because that is how tonight's opponent is traditionally seen on the schedule. However: 1) They play in the stronger West; 2) They're having a fantastic month, just sweeping the California teams who previously swept the Isles (alright, one was a shootout "loss"); and 3) There are plenty of arguments that the BJ's aren't just good right now, but also they've even been good for the last three seasons, betrayed by ugly goaltending and the toughest division in hockey.
So what are the Islanders and Jack Capuano doing to prepare for the team 6th overall?
Shuffling lines. Talking about communication. Telling themselves they're better than this 13-game winless streak.
"Get pucks to the net quicker" -- indeed! -- "Communication is a big part of hockey..." -- and? -- these are the sentiments of a struggling team. Their shooting percentage is destined to rebound at some point. Theyre bound to start putting up more than the lousy one goal per game that's infected most of this streak. I'm not sure if moving Josh Bailey to the fourth line, as reported by Katie Strang from practice, is the way to do that -- but Bailey did have those two costly penalties last weekend, and it's not like anyone is playing like an all-star right now.
Regardless, the old adages are true; they have to make it happen with work of their own. And right now they just don't have the bodies that would make it easier on themselves. Mike Mottau's puck to the eye is just one more blow to this team's depth by a thousand cuts. (Mottau was cleared to fly home yesterday, a good sign after a scary incident.)
The Debut of Travis Hamonic
The lone solace this time is that Mottau's replacement is not Dylan Reese (already up thanks to the Andrw MacDonald, Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina injuries) or Anton Klementyev (who, remember, actually saw action against Columbus last year) but rather much-anticipated prospect Travis Hamonic, who will make his NHL debut.
As excited as many of us are -- "crusher of all who dare enter" garnering 14% of the vote last May -- about this kid's potential, he is green and will likely be eased in, as debut defensemen should. Hamonic told us last winter that his favorite part of the game is shutting the opponent's best down, but I doubt even his AHL coach up until last week will use him in that role just yet.
The story of how Hamonic got the call reminds us -- well, me at least -- of the many ancillary reasons why we love this game, even when the game is treating us like an emotionally manipulative ex. (Stop calling me, Tracy, it's over! Going to Def Leppard will rekindle nothing.) Sorry...this was supposed to be about Hamonic's big moment:
"I was actually sitting on my couch," Hamonic said. "I live with three other guys back in Bridgeport. One of my roommates (Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin) kind of joked around and looked at his phone and said, ‘I think you just got called up.’ So, I kind of got bug-eyed there for a second, ran up to my room and checked my phone, had a couple of missed phone calls, so I called my coach back up in Bridgeport."
Most know the story of Hamonic's journey to get here and how meaningful this moment will be for his family, which lost his father 10 years ago now. He makes this debut with a team in a tough spot, but perhaps under ideal circumstances: Not much pressure or attention, he can just go out and play within himself. And if something special happens, it goes from traditional debut to a memorable night.
History, or How the Bonus Point Deceives
The Islanders have actually won three of their last four games against the Blue Jackets, though the wins last season were in OT and shootout, and the win the previous season was in the Chris Campoli "double OT winner" game (he "scored" twice in OT, the first and eventually counted one ripped through the twine). So the Isles are 3-1-0 over CBJ the last two seasons (six points), but the Jackets are 1-0-3, good for five points.
Fun Tidbit on Roloson, 'ex-Blue Jacket'
From the Puck Rakers blog at the Columbus Dispatch, a story WebBard has mentioned in the past:
Roloson was selected by the Blue Jackets in the expansion draft as a favor to the Buffalo Sabres, but never signed. Then-GM Doug MacLean was adamant that Roloson -- then a 30-year-old journeyman back-up -- was not suitable for duty in the NHL.
After a stellar record as a GM and club president, MacLean has been a talking head for quite a while now.
And speaking of Roloson, the Dispatch expects him to start but I suspect that is only by reading recent trend. Capuano has continued the Gordon tradition of not announcing starters ahead of time, a policy that beguiles preview writers everywhere but is no doubt key to victories.
FIGs and Program Schedule and Such
I'll dig into an update on our First Islanders Goal pool winners thus far later this week. The preferences is to put them in the game thread when you can, but in this preview is always fine too. Only one request, which you know by now: Leave your pick as a reply to the first person to leave their pick! It's easier that way. First person, maybe put "FIG" in your comment heading along with your pick. The First Islanders Passenger is a good idea that bears more exploration.
For you un-Americans, I mean non-Americans, Thursday is U.S. Thanksgiving. That doesn't actually change the schedule much around here -- we are a year-round, 24/7 quickie-mart -- but it might explain why some people will be quieter on Thursday: They are running around from dinner to dinner, waiting to dodge family so that they can get back to chatting it up at LHH.
FYI, after the holiday games resume Friday afternoon with the Isles hosting the Devils at 1 p.m.
Let's-go Is-lan-ders. No winless months! No winless months! No winless months!