Last time the New York Islanders strung a couple of feel-good wins together, they returned home to lay a massive egg in a 7-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. That loss allowed the Flyers to pull ahead of them in the standings (where they remain, two points up albeit having played two more games).
Tonight is a similar opportunity, with a similar risk to deflate fans at the beginning of a seven-game home stand. The Isles enter the game tied with the Carolina Hurricanes in points, though the Canes have two games in hand. Like the Flyers on that Presidents Day meeting, the Hurricanes enter this match struggling and having lost last night, 5-2 at home to the Lightning.
The Isles are wrapping up a busy five-in-seven stretch with this one. They are only 2-6-0 at home thus far. Needless to say, this homestand is essential for the team to build some promise both within the squad and for the fans who will be showing up at Nassau Coliseum.
The big news for the Islanders, aside from good vibes from last night's 4-0 shutout of the Sabres, is that both Kevin Poulin and Radek Martinek will make their season debuts tonight. Yes, Martinek, the longtime and suddenly prodigal Islander, is off IR and will replace Joe Finley in the lineup. It's Martinek's first NHL game in over a year, though he did get four Czech league games in with his hometown Ceske Budejovice during the lockout.
Poulin, we talked about his chances a few days ago when the Rick DiPietro news broke. It hasn't been a great season for him, though he's shown brief flashes of why fans and the franchise were high on him two seasons ago before another knee injury interrupted his path to the NHL. His numbers have not been good in the AHL this year, but suffice to say he presents a better chance to backstop the team than the injury-torched backup they just put on waivers.
Canes Country has their game preview here, and post-mortem on their loss to the Lightning here. Jeff Skinner is still out after a concussion, and the Canes have been missing three defensemen, necessitating the emergency recall of junior prospect Ryan Murphy from Kitchener.
Quotes via Isles Twitter
Capuano on home struggles:
We have to simplify our game at home. We play smart & make good decisions w. the puck on the road and have to carry that here.
Martinek on returning:
I feel good. I think I can bring good defense as a shutdown guy and clear the net. ... Watching while you're hurt is hard. When we're winning I want to be out there & when we're not I want to help. I'm excited.
And from the Isles gameday notes: Lubomir Visnovsky has been on the ice for 17 of 23 Islanders goals since joining the team.
Last meeting, the Islanders powerplay kept them in the game, though they repeatedly coughed up one-goal leads and earned every bit of a 6-4 loss. The Hurricanes sustained pressure down low and picked up some nice deflection goals against DiPietro.
Tonight they get another crack at the Canes, and Poulin -- who was in net for two of the Islanders' four victories over the Canes last year -- gets another chance to show what he can do in the NHL.
Other LHH Reads and Beyond
- Update on Isles prospects from Bridgeport to CHL to NCAA to Europe;
- On the possibly chronic physiology with DiPietro's knee;
- On Garth Snow's discussion of DiPietro on last night's broadcast;
- The Sound Tigers didn't win last night, but they won one for equality with their You Can Play night
- From Newsday: On moving on from DiPietro; and Poulin on stepping into the role.
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