Jack Capuano is a swell guy because he's going to start Al Montoya against the team that drafted him -- well I mean he all but had to, right? Not that the Isles have gone with anyone else lately, starting Montoya six consecutive times on a 4-0-2 run. (4-0-3 for the team, when counting Nathan Lawson's March 1 OTL to the Caps.)
Of facing his original franchise, Montoya told Newsday [$5 please]: "I had no hard feelings. It was great to be drafted by such a great team." I can only imagine immediately after saying "great" team, our Inigo faced the mirror and uttered: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Such a weird line the Rangers have, at +27 goal differential yet only 76 points on the season. As discussed last week, much of that has to do with a bizarre number of blowout wins -- as in, by six goals(!). Plus, there was the 7-2 drubbing of the Isles the last time these two teams met, in late December.
In truth, the Rangers are probably deserving and likely holders of a 7 or 8 seed; they're likely better than the teams below them but not as good as the ones they're chasing. Still, the margin isn't so wide that they can't end up just barely on the wrong side of the playoff line again this year. But their in a good spot: Four points ahead (76) of Carolina (72), who plays Buffalo (76) tonight. Carolina has a game in hand, but otherwise the gap over the have-nots gets bigger after that. New Jersey (68) has two games in hand, but I don't believe in their impossible dream, impressive as it's been so far.
In any case, the Islanders can make things harder for their derby rivals, and that's about what they have to play for now. Tonight's game and the March 31 game at the Coliseum present two opportunities to muddy up their rivals' playoff hopes. And when your own playoff hopes are all but mathematically gone, that's where you go for extra motivation, no? Certainly that's where the fan motivation is.
The Rangers are only 15-16-3 at home. Of course, the Islanders are only 11-17-6 on the road. And then beyond all that "home" and "away" rarely means much in this series. No matter what, hopefully tonight lives up to the billing in a game that "matters."
Matt Martin, Regular-Shift Winger
"At the start, I didn’t know how it was going to work out," Capuano said. "He’s making the best of his opportunity. He’s probably not used to the minutes, playing 16-18 minutes a night. Some nights I thought he looked a little tired, but I think he’s maintaining where he has to be right now to contribute and play those minutes."
A refreshingly honest assessment. I'd love for the Islanders to eventually have someone more dangerous in that spot -- but I'd also love for Martin to be capable of filling in there when needed. That situation has been and should continue to be fun to watch. Tonight's the first time that Martin takes that role into a "rivalry game" where the emotions and energy are amped up to 11. Can he play with an edge without going over it, while creating space and protection for Comeau and Bailey? That's the assignment.
- NEW: I knew I'd forget about this, but Michael Fornabaio's weekly Bridgeport chat is today at 1:30.
- That official site preview, as linked above. | From the other side, the official Rangers site preview.
- Newsday's bit with Montoya on his old team (also linked above).
- Brooks on the playoff chase and the Dolan price increase. | Greenberg on same.
- Or are the Rangers just unlucky? The Daily News Blueshirts Blog follows. Then quotes from ol' Bryan McCabe and others on the playoff chase and facing the in-form Isles. It's been so long since McCabe was traded, but it will still be weird to see him in that uniform in this game.
- Some game notes from Chris Botta, including Brian Boyle on his fellow late bloomer Matt Moulson.
- This was linked above, but SBN site Blueshirt Banter sees the next three games as critical. Critical for their sanity, I imagine.
- CBS NY: On the evolution of John Tavares.
Leave your FIG (First Islanders Goal) picks in this FanShot, according to the format explained there. Ooh-la-la, Sassoon.