Islanders Gameday: Long road begins in Detroit

In the past two years, the Islanders are 4-0 against the last two Western Conference champions. That bizarre trivia is thanks to once-in-a-lifetime performances from bygone names like Peter Mannino and Joey "shutout" MacDonald, plus the more expected display from still-relevant Dwayne Roloson. And then, there is the one that doesn't fit the rule: Last season's 6-0 demolition of the Red Wings at Nassau Coliseum. If only tonight could be so easy.

 Nyi-stickstripe_medium                       Det-wheel_medium
New York Islanders (10-19-6) @ Detroit Red Wings (24-9-4)
7 p.m. | Joe Louis [
pleasantly unsponsored] Arena | MSG+ audio - WRHU 88.7
Osgood yea, or nay?: Winging it in Motown

I don't expect to see this one live and don't know what condition I'll be in when I get around to it: My New Year's Eve usually includes a pair of long-standing family parties with good cheer, good beer, and good conversation well into the morning. It's the kind of this-is-what-it's-about experience that makes you feel thrilled to be alive, even as the turn of the calendar reminds you you're one step closer to the end.

Got any routines for this holiday? No matter where I was, I used to call my dad around midnight his local time, whether he was 15 miles or half the planet away. We'd knock back a drink over the phone and discuss hockey teams from the NHL to Karlovy Vary. There will be no call tonight because he's left the good ship Earth, but this night remains an occasion to conjure those memories. And that's the point: Even if you're not a fan of holiday like this, you can carve a tradition out of anything; and once you have that tradition, even after the principles are gone the bond and memory remains. Come to think of it...that's another reason hockey rules.

Rick DiPietro's health and form is like a lunar cycle these days, and he's coming off a pretty impressive shootout win over the Penguins, the only team in the league with more points than tonight's opponent. Due to my unshakable love for Frans Nielsen, if Frans says "the old DP is back" then I just have to nod in agreement, and don't ask questions.

So I don't know who Jack Capuano will go with tonight -- I'd say the "hot" hand, if I had to bet -- but surely Katie Strangthe Isles will tweet it when it becomes clear this a.m.

UDATES: Per the invaluable traveling Katie Strang of Newsday [h/t Zhora in comments], Roloson gets the start, Radek Martinek hits IR (Nooo!), and Jack Hillen gets to meet the team in Calgary after spending a couple of days with his newborn and the woman who did all the work. That report from Strang also has cool little bit from Osgood about his year-plus with the Isles.

This is the first in a five-game, 11-day adventure that resumes Monday in Alberta. The Isles have reinforcements along for the ride in Jesse Joensuu and Dylan Reese. Radek Martinek will be back any day now, while Pavel Datsyuk is definitely still out for the Wings. (They still have all those other good guys though.)

The Isles will need to duplicate Wednesday's performance if they hope to capture another upset. The Wings' powerplay (23.5%, 3rd overall) is light years better than the Penguins', so they can't be stupid and they can't count on the opponent sabotaging themselves.

The Wings play in the mighty West and outshoot opponents by more than three shots per game; the Isles play in the meek East and are outshot by about three shots per game. The effort and rabbit's feet required are clear. We'll just see if it's their night or not -- if the strange "domination" of Western champs continues.

Bits

If you won't be around, leave your FIG pick. More importantly: Have a fun, safe night.

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