Islanders Gameday: Life with a banged-up blueline

So, a few weeks ago if you'd told me there would be a 7-3-0 stretch for the Islanders in February I'd have told you, "Ooh, that's nice, and overdue. Going into Philadelphia should be a good test for Jack Capuano and his recharged boys." But now with the defense having lost the Czech and the Slovak, I'm not sure even that small test is fair.

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Islanders (23-31-7, 14th) @ Flyers (39-15-6, 1st)
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The absence of Radek Martinek and Milan Jurcina -- assuming both remain out tonight -- just adds to the tired yet relevant refrain: "lead the league in man-games lost to injury." While injuries "are not an excuse" for coaches, players and managers trying to keep morale up and expectations high, they sure make a good explanation for fans who watch every game and see what's missing when a team is missing five of its six intended season-opening defensemen.

UPDATE: Mark Katic has been recalled, and would make his NHL debut if he plays; Jesse Joensuu was returned to Bridgeport, who won last night on the strength of 42 Mikko Koskinen saves.

Tuesday night in Toronto was an extreme case because they lost Jurcina so early and spent some 14 minutes of the second half of the game without Travis Hamonic. Even without the hits to the D, there were plenty of poor performances against a bad team.

But tonight the opponent is one of the best in the league, so it hurts if Martinek isn't there to help Jack Hillen be more effective, and it still hurts that Andrew MacDonald is playing with a broken nose and a full cage that probably makes both him and Hamonic (if they're together) less effective. And then there is Bruno Gervais and Ty Wishart, plus -- will it come to this? -- whoever arrives if both Martinek and Jurcina are out.

Which is just to be real, not to be all Brooksie Downer on you. It is still hockey, so anything can full well happen.

On that note, the Islanders tend to dial in better when facing better opponents. It will take more than what they did in the 3-0 win over Los Angeles because L.A. was a little off and the Flyers are deeper and more dangerous when you make mistakes. The team will enter knowing it must be a mistake-free game:

The thing with Philadelphia, to beat them, you’re going to have to have a full team effort and you’re going to have to win the goaltending and special teams battle," Capuano said. "We’re going to have to play very disciplined."

The subtext, of course, is that the Flyers have absolutely owned the Isles over the last three seasons-plus. The two meetings this year under Capuano were at least only one-goal losses -- but then there were three one-goal losses under Scott Gordon last year, too. It's not so much that every meeting is a blowout like the first one this season (which fed another meltdown in Carolina). Rather, the Flyers are patently deeper from top to bottom, so if they play their game the percentages will tend to work in their favor. And that is why I'm already whining about further injuries to the Isles blueline.

Which is to say, if the Isles win this one tonight, in hostile Philly, then Capuano will walk on water.

Notes

  • Amusingly, Nikolay Zherdev was handed a golden opportunity to be somebody on a good team, and it he blew it. After requesting the team seek another spot for him, he's been waived. Some would point to his 15 goals and say the Flyers are crazy; this is where I would say pretty goal totals don't mean squat if you can't also do your part prevent goals while you're on the ice. I don't know exactly what his story is this year (though I can guess), but given their histories I'm gonna trust Peter Laviolette on this one.
  • That said, if Zherdev had a contract beyond this year, I wouldn't be at all surprised to wake up tomorrow and learn he'd been claimed by the Islanders. There is some sick talent there, in a Schremp-plus kind of way.
  • Nice that when Zherdev doesn't work out, the Flyers can just up and add Kris Versteeg.
  • Sean O'Donnell was supposed to be out for 10-14 days, and now he might be back right away. Good to see Paul Holmgrem continue the Bobby Clarke legacy of, um, odd injury reporting. I always pictured these scenarios as the Flyers doc coming out and saying "two to four weeks), then Clarke (or Holmgrem now) going into the training room to give a lecture, after which the player comes out and says, "I'm day to day." That's not fair, I know, but it's still fun to picture it that way.
  • Speaking of which, Oskars Bartulis (I swore I'd never have to spell that name) appears done. More on the ex-Flyer's hit that did it to Oskars, which is singular, over at BSH.
  • Sorry to say, but Evgeni Nabokov (dislocated frontal lobe, 2-4 weeks) is gonna be a scratch for this one.
  • And as of yesterday, Capuano wasn't sure who he'd start in goal tonight.
  • Got one of them there fancy mobile dee-vices, and want you some TSN trade deadline app action? Islesblogger has you hooked up on how you can download it, even in the U.S.

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Keep It Cool: A Periodic Moderator Note

Mikb has a post on community guidelines and general tone coming up later today. We LHH mods have been talking about the need for a periodic post about our guidelines, loose though they may be. This site is growing -- which is awesome -- but that requires the occasional reminder to members (new and old) of what type of atmosphere we're trying to enable here.

I'm all about free speech within reason, and I don't want anyone to walk on egg shells when expressing their heartfelt thoughts. But I also want people to treat this place not quite ike a Yahoo! board of anonymous Talbot-like courage, but rather more like a neighborhood pub for family and friends. Which means some people you can relive Eddie Murphy's greatest stand-up moments with -- but others have stricter sensibilities, so you should respect them, too. I find too strict rules chase off valued (and funny) members; but too lax rules, with too much locker room talk, does the same. That's why I don't specifically ban everyday curse words and all that, but neither do I act like they should appear in every other comment. It not only makes a user look like he/she is just ranting, it also makes the place look like a naval bunk to the new user who drops by.

So mikb will have more later, but on my mind at the moment is:

  • Misogyny: Boys, there are plenty of ways to cleverly question a hockey player's ability, morality, courage and taste without repeatedly calling him a woman or referring to female genitalia. If the worst you can do about Crosby is to call him "Cindy," it's time to think of new material. We don't have many women here (we'd like more, actually) but we value the ones we do have. Please think of them as your sister or your mother or your lady (not that she'll give you the time of day), and comment accordingly.
  • Back-and-Forth Fights: As with any family, there are going to be people you aren't going to get along with. If you're constantly butting heads with another LHH member, perhaps lay off, step away from the keyboard, or recognize you are just going to have to agree to disagree. Argue ad infinitum if you must, but at least heed this: Do not make it personal. If you make it personal, you're breaking the community guidelines and subjecting yourself to complaints, ill humor, and general stoning ... once we find a properly NHLPA-sanctioned stone of suitable weight and max air speed.
  • Caveat to "making it personal:" Some of us, particularly the long-time regulars, can tease and rebut each other in what may appear like personal terms. Usually that's because we have a long-running rapport with each other, so we know it's not personal. If you have a rapport with another member, I bet you're the best judge on how you can jab them. If not, or if you're acting out of frustration with someone, I bet that rapport does not exist. As always, if you feel wronged -- speak up. Most people will listen and reconsider. Comments here are permanent, but many members, upon reflection, will apologize if they realize they went too far.
  • Punctuation and Paragraph Breaks: I kid. Well, mostly I kid. I'm an editor by trade, so every typo and uninterrupted block of text kills another puppy within my sensitive little soul. And the preview button is your friend. But I'd never impose style rules on your comments -- seriously, this is not a red mark from your English teacher. Just food for thought though: The clearer you type, the more easily your point will be understood, and the more likely people will respond. Did I mention the preview button is your friend?

Thanks for reading this far. Unspoken in any of these periodic reminders is how much I appreciate what all of you have helped this place become. We all have our own "How I became an Islanders fan" stories, but suffice to say my story has been immensely enriched by the insight, enthusiasm and humor of all of you who participate on this site and make it fun for me.

You may now resume getting your FIG on. And please read mikb's "Welcome" and guidelines post later today.

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