It's not exactly early for Wishart, currently with his third NHL franchise, but it's not quite late either. If the pending restricted free agent gets a real chance to show what he's learned this year logging minutes in multiple situations in AHL Bridgeport, this is a big 27 games. (If it lasts even close to that long. He is one of seven healthy defensemen on this trip.)
UPDATE: Indeed, Wishart sits tonight. Marty Reasoner returns for Tim Wallace. Evgeni Nabokov starts again.
Jets (26-25-6, 10th/E) vs. Islanders (23-24-8, 13th/E)
8:30 p.m. | MSG+2* (twice the plus!) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
NOTE: Free Center Ice preview this week
[random letters of some import] Cent
Thrasher inheritance: Arctic Ice Hockey
One of the knocks on Wishart in his career is something people see in Milan Jurcina: "Look at that big body...shouldn't he be more physical?" But as with Jurcina, a disinclination to use that big body to go boom can easily be forgiven if the more important parts of the game are adhered to: Namely, good shot prevention and puck movement.
In his first audition last year -- a 20-game sample too small to judge but large enough to intrigue -- Wishart's stats in that area were promising: A team-high Corsi Rel and an observable process of learning from his mistakes. That was a good stretch for the Isles overall, so there is some "Is it the Avery or the egg?" to that question.
Regardless, for whatever reason, he did not wow the Isles in camp in September and has gotten the call only now, with injuries to earlier callups Dylan Reese and Calvin de Haan making him next in line after Aaron Ness.
Granted, one reason Wishart is up is because of Travis Hamonic's broken nose, which is what makes the Islanders' task even taller lately. Without #1 d-man Hamonic a domino effect ensues, and it's one the Islanders are still trying to find the best way to address. That Aaron Ness was so quickly paired with Andrew MacDonald is either a sign of desperation and sheltering or else confidence, but I'll read it as confidence in Ness, who logged a third-highest ice time last game at 20:40.
Alas, there is still the other pairs to figure out -- who lines up with captain Mark Streit and who handles the rest. Here's hoping Wishart is up to throw another possible answer at that question.
Winnipeg Is Cold.
If you're looking for updates from Newsday today, beat writer Arthur Staple is not on the trip. Instead, it's Mark Herrmann. I don't know how one draws the short straw of taking the Winnipeg-in-February jaunt, but there you have it. Maybe he'll stir up trade rumors while trying to avoid going all The Shining in the prairies. (I know Winnipeg fans are tired of cold jokes, but ... well ... it's really cold. And we tire of Snow/Wang/DiPietro jokes that lack historical context too, so hey. We all have crosses.)
But as for the Jets, they acquired a rookie penalty killer with a needlessly funny name. They're also messing with their lines, as they have a few players underproducing to their expectations (Eric Fehr, Nik Antropov). They're also 16-8-2 at home, a big disparity considering their near NHL-quasi-.500 record. Since* I have little hope for the Isles in St. Louis Thursday, they'll have to make this one count.
*That's actually an awful construction, as my personal hopes have little to do with the Islanders' have-to's, and in fact they should make tonight "count" regardless of their chances vs. the Blues. Those responsible for that sentence have been sacked.
Al Montoya has played in three games since Evander Kane pulled his, "Look ma, no brakes!" routine and gave him a concussion on Dec. 20. Running the goalie because you have the puck and feel no obligation to correct course the way you would if skating toward a ref, the endboards, or a small tiger cub let loose on the ice is one of the puzzling behaviors the NHL tolerates way too much.
So this is a game between two flawed teams that shouldn't make the playoffs and probably won't make the playoffs, but they're close enough to each other and to 8th to keep the dream alive and make things interesting. That's at least what you'd hope for from a transitional year. On that note, Montreal lost to Carolina in regulation last night, and Washington lost in regulation to San Jose.
- Zac Rinaldo checks like an idiot and got suspended for it. (Seriously, in what universe did these players learn how to deliver a body check? It's a skill, but it's not that hard.)
- More people say Rick Nash is on the trading block, so of course some think he'll go to the Rangers.
- I can't believe they need a vote of confidence for Joel Quenneville, but that's what he got from Stan Bowman. Also: We're not looking for a goaltender. So on your PR scorecard, Garth Snow is not intending to trade Evgeni Nabokov, and Bowman is not intending to acquire a goaltender.
- This is funny: Pittsburgh Penguins Ask Fans: Hey, When Did You Join The Bandwagon? - SBNation.com
- Wait ... are you sitting down? Mike Milbury said more dumb things.
- You know who else says dumb things? Nassau County developers. This is too good to make up: "We will then pursue other teams that are out there that would maybe want to relocate to the Island, because it’s a great spot. Or not." Pigs at the trough, waiting their turn.
- Mike Bossy mic'd up for Sunday's post-game Skate with the Greats deal.
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