Islanders vs. Blues Gameday: It's Andy McDonald, or Andrew MacDonald if You're Not into the Whole Brevity Thing

There are all kinds of reasons to think the points (eight) and teams (three as of today) and remaining schedule are too difficult for the Islanders -- whose 5-on-5 goal ratio (.74) is still 30th overall -- to overcome and make the playoffs. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the ride watching them try, especially while P.A. Parenteau remains in the fold.

A loss in St. Louis, after multiple results went against them last night and multiple bubble teams play tonight, would cast things in a darker light. But my, how people will buzz if they can pull off a point or two against the best home team in the NHL.

Nyi-landthin_medium Stlslim_medium
Islanders (24-24-8, 11th/E) @ Blues (34-15-7, 3rd/W)
8 p.m. EST | MSG+, Free Center Ice previews | Audio: NHL -
WRHU
Kiel Center
Home Away from Home Except It's Home:
St. Louis Game Time

As with SB Nation's Blackhawks site, the Blues site SLGT is run by people who bleed sweat and tears to produce a thick print program of the same name for ever single home game. It's cheap and hilarious and you can't see it unless you're there (or a subscriber) but I thought I'd let you know. The thing provides needed comic relief in good times and bad, and the staff sells it outside rain, snow or escalator disaster.

If you ever find yourself in St. Louis for a game -- and I see random Isles jerseys dot the crowd each visit -- the program is worth your while (and not just because I may or may not contribute on Isles-Blues encounters). Those are the traditions that should not die, that keep sports from becoming a fully commercialized soulless mess.

Isles Notes

The way Jack Capuano has been going, I doubt he makes a single change after the 3-1 win in Winnipeg, but we'll see after the morning skate reports. I just can't imagine this of all nights is when Al Montoya gets a start.

The Islanders' run of four consecutive road wins should really be put to the test tonight. Even though St. Louis dropped a clunker in Columbus Tuesday, they return home where they are 24-3-4. Yes, that's a three in the middle. They also haven't lost to an East team in regulation, but it's only been 13 tries.

I watch the narrow hustled-out victories over unthreatening teams like the Jets and I fear what a team like the Blues could do to them. However, obviously "any given game" and all that, and the Blues offense still is prone to slumps. Despite being an absolutely dominant possession team, the Blues rank just 22nd in goals per game, in part due to an awful powerplay rate of 14.3%.

Newsday's Mark Herrmann, who somehow drew the Winnipeg-St. Louis trip, makes an interesting note that the Isles are 14-6-4 when Andrew MacDonald leads the team in ice time.

Blues Notes: Carlo Catastrophe, Stewie Struggle, Beastly Backes, the Other A-Mac

Carlo Colaiacovo, who was born under a ladder holding a broken mirror supporting a black cat, "left practice Wednesday after falling on his right wrist." If he's out, they say Kent Huskins will play.

Chris Stewart -- who fought Zenon Konopka at the opening faceoff in Colorado last year due to some summer rec hockey score -- is a beastly threat with a wonderful backhand when he's on ... and an invisible enigma when he's off. That's what's landed him on the fourth line for tonight.

Ken Hitchcock describes the move like so:

"Before you can think about scoring goals, you've got to start to work," Hitchcock said. "Does this get his attention and do all that stuff? We'll see, but we need him to have way more impact on the game. He's too good a player to just go quietly by the night."

That sentiment reminds me of a truth most recently uttered by Dave Tippett (another great coach) about Gilbert Brule, a high pick who's had his struggles -- and needed some counseling thanks to family issues -- as he's landed on his third NHL team this year in Phoenix:

"For players like that who get the expectations heaped on them early ... it's a challenge. When you get here, it's the men's league and you've got to be ready to compete night in and night out. A lot of young players, they grow up their whole career the best player. They don't have to worry about details, just be the best player.

"And now when they get into a situation where they're not the best player on the ice ... the details of the game have to be in place."

I'm not saying that's Stewart's problem -- we have no idea what's making him not tick, really. But it is a problem good young players who are not great NHLers face. Every level of hockey forces that adjustment, and at every level talented players who don't adapt fall by the wayside. There is zero reason Stewart should fall by the wayside. Look for him to be an angry fellow tonight.

Speaking of angry fellows, David Backes isn't angry -- just kind of crazy. He always reminds me of the Irish guy in "Braveheart." Crazy look in his eyes, and pretty sure he's gonna come out of any mess on top.

Backes was a 62nd overall pick in 2003, playing three years at Minnesota State-Mankato -- not exactly your "first line center" route to the NHL. For quite a while he was a "hey, this guy can grind and check and score a little" kind of prospect. But he just kept getting better, and better, and suddenly he's got Frans Nielsen defensive chops with top-six offensive skills. He leads the Blues in scoring once again.

If Backes plays against John Tavares -- that's not a certainty, but Backes rendered the Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski - Patrick Marleau line impotent the other night -- it would make an interesting matchup and a great challenge for Tavares. I just hope Backes doesn't eat JT.

The sad thing here is Alex Steen is a similar two-way threat, but he's been out a long time with a concussion and isn't really close to returning. He came over with Colaiacovo in the trade for Lee Stepniak {snickers} and is simply fantastic.

Other Players to Watch:

David Perron is back and scoring (10-14-24 in 30 GP) after a scary concussion (from Thornton, incidentally) kept him on the shelf for a year. His hands are incredible (Perron is who turned Mark Streit inside out two years ago, something answered by Tavares against the whole Blues defense in last year's meeting), so you'll want to watch for #57.

Also to watch, but for an entirely different reason: Scrappy, diligent Vladimir Sobotka, who is neither Russian nor Polish but Czech. Which means he likes good beer.

And watch #27 Alex Pietrangelo and you'll quickly gather why the Islanders saw the top three defensemen in the 2008 draft, got down to Luke Schenn and said, "Ummm, actually we'll trade down and collect picks, thanks." The Josh Bailey book is still open and yet to fulfill, but I didn't mind the double-trade-down that day and I haven't since. In coincidental news, Aaron Ness is looking alright in his first five NHL games.

But to complete the concussion chain, Matt D'Agostini is still out with a concussion and "the other A-Mac" Andy McDonald is recently back from a concussion that cost him 51 games. That the Blues are where they are despite missing so many games from Perron, Steen and McDonald is impressive. As someone who has followed them all my life, I'm sure something disastrous will happen and the goaltending will implode.

Miller Ale House Watch Party

Sounds like people are organizing a watch party at Miller Ale House tonight.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread.

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