It's tough going in AHL Bridgeport right now, as the Sound Tigers have won just three out of their last 25 games. But one thing Sound Tigers players can take solace in -- well, except for maybe Robin Figren -- is that the chances at NHL games are plentiful. That will happen when the parent club has nine guys on IR and leads the NHL in man-games lost to injury. That's why there are six guys in Bridgeport who have been with the Isles this year, and eight guys on the Islanders who have been in Bridgeport this year.
The ninth to join the latter group today is Justin DiBenedetto, Bridgeport's leading goal scorer with 15 goals, having passed Micheal Haley's 12, which was the lead at the time of Haley's call-up. That figure is especially curious, as 10 of those goals have come in the last 17 games. DiBenedetto has been described as possessing "Jon Sim qualities" (the go to the net kind). That makes him an interesting recall in the wake of the loss of Rob Schremp to Atlanta on waivers. (I'm about all Schremp talked out now, but there is some good discussion as usual from BenHasna and others in the Schremp thread here.)
One thing Schremp was unable to do -- and it may have been an unfair task in limited chances -- is instigate some chemistry with Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau. In a vacuum, DiBenedetto would add a completely different look to the ponderous shooter/offensive zone orbiter Comeau and the defensive-minded playmaker Bailey. But we don't know if DiBenedetto will even prove adept at an NHL fourth-line role, much less get a shot with those two. We'll have to see what Jack Capuano has in mind.
DiBenedetto, part of that Sarnia clan with Matt Martin, becomes the sixth Islanders pick from the 2008 draft to play in the NHL, the fifth with the Islanders. (Josh Bailey, Kevin Poulin, Matt Martin, Travis Hamonic, plus Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota.) For those who hate receiving picks in trades, DiBenedetto would be the fourth selection from that group whose pick was acquired via trade.
Tonight's Assignment: The First of Back-to-Backs
The Islanders' schedule doesn't get any easier here as they play the second of a home-and-home with the Capitals in D.C.,
then travel to Minnesota return home [idiot blogger can't read a schedule] for a game tomorrow against the Wild, who are in the thick of the legendary tight playoff race in the West.
The Capitals have really changed their look since we last saw them Saturday night. They'd already claimed but not played Marco Sturm "und Drang" off waivers. Then yesterday they added Jason Arnott up the middle and Dennis Wideman to provide their own blueline version of Rob Schremp Hockey: Moments of offensive brilliance peppered with head-scratching defensive decision-making. The only off-the-roster cost for those moves was David Steckel, who has been with the Caps since forever and yet I still have no idea what, exactly, he does here at Initech. (Visit Japers' Rink for plenty of Caps fan reaction.)
I was pessimistic at the Isles chances with their current blueline despite the sellout crowd Saturday night. I'm even less hopeful tonight in Washington, with an injection of new blood into the Caps lineup. But again, that's why they play the games (one game at a time, breathe through your eyelids, wear ladies' underwear, God willing and the creek don't rise).
The Goalie Situation: Like the Bonnie Situation, with Less Blood
Saturday was Al Montoya's first bad game in my opinion, though it was hardly a laugher. It's hard not to want to just run him out there again and again to see what they have and determine if he might be worth keeping around next season. Nathan Lawson cleared waivers as expected, which means he'll be reassigned to Bridgeport whenever RIck DiPietro comes back.
Ah, yes, the DiPietro situation. His untimely facial injury (and knee swelling) means another season will have gone by without a proper test of how long, or how effectively, he can roll off multiple starts in a reasonable time period. With 19 games left to play, that test just isn't going to happen to my satisfaction, and yet -- get this -- DiPietro will likely finish the season with the most games played of any Islanders goaltender this year. He's in the lead at 21 (Roloson played 20), and Montoya would have to play 14 of the final 19 just to tie him -- and that's if DP didn't play another game.
DiPietro is skating and taking shots again, so his return is probably near. With Kevin Poulin having surgery and Mikko Koskinen not showing he's ready for regular NHL work, whatever DiPietro can provide down the stretch will help inform what's needed over the summer. You never know, they may need to call The Wolf.
LINEUP UPDATE: Unfortunately, Evgeni Nabokov will be a scratch for this one, as he was unaware he would have to actually participate in games to receive compensation and awards.
Random Trade Deadline Thoughts
We'll have another Power Rankings-slash-Trade Deadline Recap type of post later, but if you're in the mood to discuss yesterday now, here are a few thought starters:
- I found the timing of cutting bait with Schremp odd, but I don't have a problem with Snow not budging on his asking price on the two potential rentals yesterday. Being stubborn is what gets you a 1st-round pick for Chris Campoli and a 2nd for Andy Sutton (who is still the odd man out in Anaheim, by the way). Being desperate gets you a 7th for Alex Kovalev. Snow did his best to pump and dump Schremp leading up to the deadline, but Schremp was unable to do enough pumping.
- If you read no other reactions to trade deadline deals, read Copper & Blue's bewildered reaction to the Oilers trading Dustin Penner just because. Salient quote here. Trade recap here.
- I do not understand Bob Murray. If he was giving up a 3rd for Brad Winchester -- Brad Winchesters?! -- then a 2nd for Zenon Konopka (the reported Snow asking price) actually doesn't look bad. Murray took a 3rd for James Wisniewski, remember. Winchester is a UFA and is not good at hockey. On the other hand, Vancouver was smart not to pay the rate for Konopka; they're strong enough as it is and they picked up other useful players for less.
- I can't really begin to describe my puzzlement with Dale Tallon in Florida, but that's hardly new. I'm sure a month of Sergei Samsanov will be just lovely though. (Why not claim Schremp then?)
- I am really looking forward to Stan Bowman getting a closer look at Chris Campoli.
- Martin Biron breaks his collarbone in practice on deadline day, and the Rangers are left without a Plan B. That is downright Islanders luck right there. (Actually, no, that's wrong: Islanders luck would've meant Henrik Lundqvist took the injury.)
As with observations of Snow's moves, except even more so, I do not know the whole story with these other teams. So those are my initial impressions, but I'm not such an arrogant arse to think my impressions are gospel. Still, Tallon?
I had a revelation, or at least a confirmation bias experience, the other day when Mrs. Lighthouse looked for an LHH comment I'd laughed about, and asked, "Why are there all these player lists before you get to the comments?" Now, Mrs. Lighthouse isn't in what you would call our "target market" -- she is technically a hockey fan, though that may have been a bait and switch to win my undying devotion, and she doesn't read the site but once in a blue moon. But she did give me insight into the experience of a newcomer to the site who might be turned away from gameday discussion because it's filled with FIG picks.
I don't know. Us regulars all know what the FIG (First Islanders Goal pool) is about and I suppose skimming past the picks is easy enough. I'm still tempted to create separate threads for it next season, or maybe restrict it to the game thread and post the game thread a little earlier. We'll see. This is an on-going policy discussion, which is fine by me if you'll excuse the thinking out loud.
For now, carry on. Please someone leave a "FIG PICKS GO HERE" comment, and everyone reply under that one to keep them somewhat tidy. As usual, when someone picks your player, just reply to them rather than start a new subthread. And: "SCORER'S LAST NAME (assist1, assist2), time" is the format.