New York Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Preview: Mutually assured dread

When we last met. - Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

No matter what happens, the loser will have very serious post-game quotes.

Forget what the teams are doing, both the fanbases involved tonight will be on a ledge if their team loses this game.

They've met once previously, back when the season was young and the Islanders had yet to script how they would leave a bad taste in your mouth for their home opener. That one was a decent effort and 2-0 lead through two periods before the Isles got careless enough to let the Blue Jackets back in the game. After regulation ended in a tie, a shootout would give the extra point to Columbus.

Fast forward a month, and these two teams' narratives are taking shape: Columbus, as noted earlier, has their fans in full angst mode as this season's start sounds way too much like many fruitess prior ones. If Isles fans are worried their run to the playoffs last spring was a fluke, Columbus fans are worried their run to juuust agonizingly short of a playoff spot last spring was a cruel fluke, without the benefit of some exciting best-of-seven action.

Cbj-midslim_medium Nyi-islim_medium
Islanders (6-7-3) @ Blue Jackets (5-10-0)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+
| Audio: NHL - WRHU, WRCN
[insurance or finance of some sort] Arena

Opponents' Dread: Jackets Cannon

Having lost four in a row, the Blue Jackets really don't want to finish this homestand with an embarrassment against a Metro team they'll need to leap to think of contention. At the Columbus Dispatch blog:

"We need points," Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger said. "We have our backs up against the wall. We have to be a desperate group and I think we are."

That's after a players-only meeting following the most recent loss too. Will it work?

"I'll be able to answer that question after the game tonight whether it was a wakeup call or not," Richards said. "The alarm went off for them based on how we practiced but the question for me is if they hit the snooze alarm or did they really wake up?"

One of these teams is going to have some fun agonizing post-game quotes.

Also this from coach Todd Richards (same Dispatch link as before), capturing endless Matt Moulson - Thomas Vanek trade debate in a nutshell:

"Vanek, there is danger there," Richards said. "But the loss of Moulson was impactful for their team. I liked him as a player. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Vanek. They both are going to challenge you."

I hope you join me in mourning the fact that "impactful" has escape the office and made it to the world of hockey coach jargon. I see some synergy we can leverage here, once we identify where the rubber meets the road.

Lineup Notes

The Islanders will start Evgeni Nabokov, with Kevin Poulin looking like he'll start in his home province tomorrow night. Far more curiously, Eric Boulton is in for Brock Nelson. Maybe that's in anticipation of the "desperate, wounded team" theme Columbus will bring, but then Matt Carkner is also in for Radek Martinek. They're doubling down on their fists.

The Dispatch has the latest version of Columbus lines:

F1: Umberger-Anisimov-Gaborik
F2: Dubinsky-Johansen-Atkinson
F3: Comeau-MacKenzie-Letestu
F4: Collins-Chaput-Boll

D1: Tyutin-Johnson
D2: Murray-Wisniewski
D3: Nikitin-Prout

After a deserved Vezina nod last year, Sergei Bobrovsky has fallen slightly back to earth (.910, .927 at even strength), but that's in part due to some goals against while shorthanded. He's still unquestionably the better goalie in tonight's game.

Nightmare Trivia:

Columbus is 10-1-4 all-time against the Isles, including 6-0-2 in Nationwide.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here.

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