He brings smart, hard hockey. And an ability to carry the puck. - Al Bello
Why not make 10 the smartest and hardest? Because this team can go up to 11.
The New York Islanders losing streak (now at five games, in case you somehow needed a reminder that EVERYTHING IS WRONG!!1 (apologies to Moby)) is interrupted by a rare two days in between games during this shortened season.
That meant two days of practice to work with new line combos before Thursday's rematch with the Rangers at the Garden, where this streak reached its hump day (we hope) last week. The alignment (changes in bold):
Moulson - Tavares - Boyes
Bailey - Nielsen - Okposo
Grabner - Aucoin - McDonald
Martin - Cizikas - Ullstrom (Boulton)
I'll say this: That mix certainly spreads out the talent across four lines. It puts a pretty heavy burden on individual players to carry the top two and arguably top three lines, however.
The Islanders did not tweet out defensive pairs, however Newsday's Arthur Staple did:
There appears to be a fear -- warranted in many recent games -- that the Isles D-men aren't boxing out bodies or getting sticks in the best position when defending in front of the net. Whether this mix of pairs addresses that -- not to mention whether they're even used tomorrow -- remains to be seen.
But this alignment would break up the Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic "shutdown" pair and also make ice time more balanced across the six D. The top three ice munchers have been MacDonald, Mark Streit and Hamonic, but this setup spreads them across three pairs.
Meanwhile, given the series of one-goal (plus ENG) losses they've suffered, the players are feeling they're not far off. They're also sounding a familiar theme, per Staple's filing for Newsday:
"It's not even the case that we're playing horribly," Mark Streit said. "We're playing hard, but maybe not that smart at some times.
Smart, hard. Hahd, smaht. They are apparently one hard stone, based on the Mohs Scale of hardness. Passengers and talcum powder are not welcome. One increasingly wonders if the problem isn't in the effort or the brains, then it must be in the talent or the approach.
- No fewer than five of the league's 10 games last night became three-point games due to the magic of the Bettman point. Two teams blew 3-0 leads (I mean who does that?!) only to salvage by winning in the shootout.
- Bridgeport blew a 3-1 lead but won in OT over division-leading Springfield thanks to John Persson's winner. Coverage: Post (where Nino talks of wanting to hit people after the snow-induced layoff) | Soundin' Off | Official site | Box score
- WSJ: Counting Down the Days Til Brooklyn
- Q&A with John Tavares at ESPN NY: New York Minute: Q&A with New York Islanders star John Tavares
- More on him: Body Language: It seems like being elite on a bad team would be frustrating | Backhand Shelf
- Same source, on losing dressing rooms: The St. Louis Blues, and the miserable tension of a losing dressing room | Backhand Shelf
- And further: What is discussed in players-only meetings? - The Hockey News
- Ex-Isle alert 1: Ducks to bring Roloson into organization | Orange County Register
- Ex-Isle alert 2: Bruins sign Jay Pandolfo to one-year deal - Stanley Cup of Chowder
- Hilariously made possible by the Tim Thomas deal, by the way.
- A right royal rant: What Ails the Isles And Who Is To Blame | PuckBuddys
- Since we've been talking goalies, what are the odds James Reimer is legit?
- Would you like a big, effective, yet still somehow underachieving and disappointing Cup winner? Dustin Penner: On the trade market again | OilersNation
- I still love the Kesler one because of how desperate the lady looks: Twenty-three of hockey’s weirdest and most inappropriate fan signs | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports
- Finally, some DGB: Down Goes Brown: A look through the NHL's injury report
Oh, and Thursday could be J.T. Miller's final game this season with the Rangers, unless they keep him. Maybe don't let him score two goals down the gut this time?