Islanders Gameday: To catch a Predator; Biron is in

Update: Chris Botta reports that Doug Weight, nursing a shoulder injury that won't be 100% without surgery, is the other "healthy" scratch. But a bigger shocker: Martin Biron will get the start. Biron's last NHL start was a 2-1 loss to the Flyers Dec. 27.

That pun has to be dated by, what, two years right? My defense is I never watched the show. It only entered into my consciousness by vague osmosis when overhearing third-party discussion, the same way I occasionally become aware of college sports. (I think I know that Tim Tebow is some QB for a southern school, right? And he's done now, yes? I'm serious, that's all I know.)

Not trying to turn half of you off; but it's amazing how pleasant your sporting life can be when you reduce it to just those sports about which you are truly passionate. Freeing yourself from the obligation to shoot the bull about sports that don't interest you is a wonderful thing.

Predator-crop_medium                 Lh-top_medium
Nashville Predators (31-22-4, 8th/W) at New York Islanders (23-27-8, 13th/E)
7 p.m. EST | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Vets. Mem. Coliseum | MSG+, radio
Masters of the Small-Market Defense: On the Forecheck | On the Glass | Sect. 111

Anyway, fortunately this is an Islanders hockey site. So we're all on the same page for this, at least.

On that note: David Poile and Barry Trotz have done it again. On a tight budget, in a literally small market, these two expansion survivors continue to be employed and continue to keep their club in playoff contention year after year, without benefit of a #1 overall pick -- in part because they're on the same page. I hope we can say that about Garth Snow and Scott Gordon one day -- and I hope, of course, we can say it because they have more success than the Predators.

What impresses me about the Predators management team is they've survived in a market that doesn't have the inherent benefits of a larger metro area. You can talk about the machinations that created a team in Nashville -- how it was almost the Nashville Devils, which would have made for some interesting Stanley Cup parades -- and how in some respects it was a Bettman-level mistake. Whatever the merits, the fact is the Predators are here and their management has made the most of it, lasting through a few dicey ownership situations that would make even an Islanders fan send a condolence card. [If you missed it, for a great read on the Predators' challenges and strengths, check out James Mirtle's six-part series from last year.]

Like Lindy Ruff/Darcy Regier in Buffalo, you can point to Trotz/Poile as an example that stability can work. Players don't have to tune a coach out. A coach doesn't have to have an expiration date. Now granted, neither has won it all -- but neither has enjoyed the advantages most of the last 20 Stanley Cup winners have had.

I'll close this thought with an observation from Preds blogger Buddy Oakes (Preds on the Glass), as relayed to Columbus blog Dark Blue Jacket:

Philosophically, Poile and Trotz are one. They both understand each other, know what their roles are, and act accordingly. They are both keenly aware that it takes everyone on the team to be "all in" every game with "no passengers". Trotz was talking about the "core" of the team last week which most would think would be the top 8-10 players, but Trotz explained it differently. He said the core was the 26 players that had played and contributed throughout the year. He explained that each had a role and none were more important than the whole.

Again, you can argue with the long-term results ("Where are the championships?"), though I'd point out this is only the franchise's 11th NHL season, they've never had the benefit of a sexy draft pick, and they've lived in the same division as the greatest team over the last decade. Regardless, clearly Trotz has lasted thanks to a healthy relationship with his GM and the fact that he doesn't resort to the tactics that give other NHL coaches a short shelf life. When you're trying to build things from the ground up on a tight budget, that's probably not a bad approach.

Whether Gordon and Snow ever replicate that, well I hope so -- but I also hope it's for the right reasons and not because they're just full of love and loyalty.

About the Predators

Self-promo: I did a quick Q&A for Chris Burton, one of the writers over at On the Forecheck. Just answered his questions on the Islanders. I don't believe I told him anything you'd debate, but if I did I fully expect you to call me on it. (That's part of what this whole thing is about: "I love you man, and I love that you love the Isles. But you're full of it, and here's why. Now give me the keys.")

On the Forecheck also has their game preview up, where you can get a little glimpse into what's up with the Preds.

Patric Hornqvist is their leading scorer(!) J.P. Dumont is second, and recently responded to a calling out from Trotz by delivering a big game. Pekka Rinne may have taken the reins on the goaltending position. If so it's possible Nashville adds another goalie to the trade market that's already cramping Martin Biron's style. Rinne and Dan Ellis are both pending UFAs.

Speaking of the net, I'd bet on it being Dwayne Roloson's turn after Rick DiPietro took the loss against Carolina. But I'm not a former NHL goalie, and our coach and GM are.

Islanders: Size Infusion

One of the things that delights me about hockey is that despite our attempts to capture it in numbers, there are still very nebulous characteristics that are at once both true and absolute cliche. On that note, the Islanders have decided to "add a little size" with the call-up of rookies Jesse Joensuu and Matt Martin. Pretty excited about this -- mostly because of Matt Martin's NHL debut, but also because nothing soothes the soul of a seven-game losing streak like a little roster shakeup.

As sure as Pluto is a planet, Jeff Tambellini will be one of the lineup casualties. The other one is anyone's guess. Doug Weight talked openly to the beat writers about his lingering shoulder injury -- and so did Scott Gordon -- but I'm pretty sure they're painting him in the role of inspirational captain rather than vet who needs a break. Someone else sits for Martin and A Finn Names Jesse.

Things to Watch: Gauging both wingers' development, of course, but also to see whether their presence infuses a little contagious physical play. And see whether either gets front-of-the-net powerplay time.

Me? I'm just excited. This feels like March of last year, when the young kids were allowed to take over and it seemed like every week we were getting a look at a prospect from Bridgeport. Difference is right now, the games still matter.

Special Teams

Naturally, the Islanders powerplay and penalty kill are both worse than the Predators' -- although it's close: The Preds' special teams are nothing to write home about (75.9 vs. 75.1; 16.5 vs. 15.1). How about this: I'll just set off an alarm or something when the Isles actually face a team that fares worse in 5-against-4 situations.

Prediction: Is it wrong to predict another loss? Okay, the Isles get a PP goal, Matt Martin makes his presence felt in some way, and the Isles eke out a shootout "win," 3-2.

Sentiment of Warm and Fuzzies

Just wanted to commend everybody again for your activity on the site here. We've seen a growth in active users over the last few months, and I appreciate how the old-timers have eased in the newbies, and how the new commenters have generally hit the ground running. I appreciate everyone's civility and wit. It's hard to create a comfortable online space, and we're hardly perfect, but I think we're doing alright. My goal remains intelligent Islanders discussion, silly wit and memes of Martin's "psychicality," as well as passionate but respectful debates. Thank you for all of that.

And for lurkers and new users: Jump in at any time. I realize it can be intimidating or appear asymmetrical when several of us dominate a thread, but all it takes is one interesting new voice to send a topic in a different direction. Most users here just like the Islanders with a passion that is worn on their sleeve.

This has been your quarterly bit of Lighthouse Hockey housekeeping, which like dusting only the front room while leaving the back a mess of cat hair and dirty dishes, is sort of just a placeholder as I put off more in-depth posts explaining how a bunch of the user features work around here. Some day, man. Some day.

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