The New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks meet tonight as lengthy respective home and road string wind down. The Islanders wrap up a five-game homestand tonight, while the Canucks enter the second half of seven games outside their time zone.
The Isles took three points in meetings against struggling Buffalo and Edmonton before losing in regulation to Carolina, while the Canucks opened with wins over weak Philadelphia and Buffalo before dropping a shootout to the Penguins and a 3-1 decision in Columbus. They'll still have New Jersey and St. Louis to contend with before heading home.
The big news for the Islanders is they will be without two key players in Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Michael Grabner (suspension), creating opportunities for rookies Matt Donovan and Brock Nelson.
Both were expected to contribute this season, but the Isles have eased them in with a mix of healthy scratches. NHL.com has the situation with Donovan:
"I've always said even when you sit out a game as a young player you can learn a lot," Capuano said. "You see from up top where you sit that you get more time and space. He's a plus player for us right now. I think he moves the puck, he jumps up in the play. He knows exactly how we want him to play. When young guys come up they're going to make mistakes. We talked about that. But he's gotten better and better every day."
"They wanted me to sit up there and learn and think about what I've done in past games and just learn from it individually," Donovan said. "I think I've done that. I've sat out three or four games now. I've really thought about what I can improve on and what kind of decisions I can make with the puck that will help me play better."
The big news for New York media, however, is the return of a guy many like to rip, many with good reason.
In an all-too-typical scene, "one of the largest media contingents in a while" attended the Islanders morning skate -- not because of this game, but because the quotable ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella was in town. They had sound bites to chase, and futile attempts to get Tortorella to talk about his old team. He wouldn't bite.
He did talk about his new team, and the culture he's tried to change:
"We're working on that. You've got to remember, it's a pretty good hockey club. It's been successful. I'd like to see us play with more grind. We've got some talented people. So we're trying to play both (using skill and grind). I think to win consistently in this league, you need that."
Tortorella has already done the previously unthinkable: Separate the Sedins. If he plays it that way tonight without those two lining up with Ryan Kesler, then Nucks Misconduct suggests lines like so:
Higgins - H. Sedin - Kesler
D. Sedin - Santorelli - Hansen
Booth [scratched] - Richardson - Kassian
Sestito - Welsh - Weise
Garrison - Bieksa
Hamhuis - Edler
Tanev - Stanton
Alberts [Canucks are going with 7 D]
For the Islanders, we've talked a lot about how Visnovsky's injury will increase the burden on the other defensemen. Weird, then, that Capuano would say (in the nhl.com link above) they plan to start with Andrew MacDonald in Visnovsky's power play role: MacDonald is already the most heavily used defenseman averaging 25:57 per game.
Chances are, it's Donovan who quickly assumes more PP minutes, otherwise the Islanders will be trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. Regardless, the Lubo-less lineup looks like this:
Moulson - Tavares - Okposo
Bailey - Nielsen - Bouchard
Nelson - Regin - Clutterbuck
Martin - Cizikas - McDonald
MacDonald - Hamonic
Hickey - Carkner
Donovan - Strait
Evgeni Nabokov is in goal. Donovan pairing with Brian Strait would be like a recreation of the old Mark Streit pairing with Strait -- if they were used in primarily offensive zone situations. Thomas Hickey would play more of the Lubo mobility role when paired with Matt Carkner, a stay-at-home defenseman who really should avoid straying from home.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- New York Islanders vs. Vancouver Canucks Gameday: Life without Visnovsky, Grabner
- Luongo on What Went Wrong on Long Island: 'I could throw a name out there'
- [Gameday Bits] No Visnovsky, No Grabner, No Hamrlik, No Roger, No Re-Run, No Rent.
- Shanabanned: Grabner Suspended Two Games by NHL for Gerbe Hit
- Lubomir Visnovsky Injury: Concussion puts key Islanders defenseman on IR