Over the weekend, former Montreal coach Claude Julien's probably-best-in-East Boston Bruins lost to the current and technically-tops-in-the-East Montreal Canadiens, leading Julien to go on a good ol' "embellishing and embarrassing" kind of rant about the Isles' opponent tonight.
I didn't see the game in question, so it's a good thing this isn't the Internet Age, and thus there's no easily retrievable video evidence of Julien wearing no clothes. (The Canadiens, for their part, responded with: "Hey, jealousy.")
Last time the Islanders and the Hockey Club from Montreal met, curious calls by the officials were a featured part -- but not due to dives, thankfully. That game did see Thomas Hickey get his first NHL goal on the OT winner, one one of those, "This better work, because otherwise it's 2-on-1 the other way" plays.
Islanders (9-11-2, 11th/E) vs. (14-4-4, 1st/E)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (twice the plus!), RDS | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Sultans of Swan (Dive): Habs Eyes on the Prize
If the Canadiens are getting ripped in Bahston for pahceived theatrics, they are getting praise elsewhere for leading the Eastern Conference in points. (The Bruins, just two points behind, have three games in hand. But they can't exactly claim head-to-head superiority.)
GM Marc Bergevin is also getting some praise for navigating the cap situation he inherited -- finding an exit for Scott Gomez here, dealing off Erik Cole's remainder there -- although he did his part to complicate that inheritance when he signed Brandon Prust for four years at an average of $2.5 million per.
Since the last Isles-Canadiens meeting, Montreal hasn't lost in regulation, shutting out the Rangers, beating the Maple Leafs 5-2, the Bruins 4-3, and mixing in shootout and OT losses. In fact, they've gone 11 games without a regulation loss, dating back to an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Leafs that foretold none of the narrative above.
Speaking of narratives, even though Montreal beat the rival Bruins Sunday, some fans aren't happy, as Andrew Berkshire chronicles with restrained rage here, because they lost two fights. The team's current point streak is half the length of the Blackhawks' epic streak, so clearly they have a problem and need better enforcers. Yep.
Islanders: Why My Lubo Go?
The forward lines at yesterday's practice were as they have been, with the big-but-small exception of Keith Aucoin centering the first line ... because John Tavares took a rest day from saving the universe:
*Relax. On the fourth day, John rested.
The big news from this morning has to do with the defense: Lubomir Visnovsky will miss tonight's game and Thursday's game due to a family tragedy back home -- one not relating to his son's health. That's a big hit to the Islanders' transition game and potentially to their powerplay as well.
The Islanders powerplay performed well even before Visnovsky joined them to provide a second (and frankly stronger) slapshot threat next to Mark Streit, but having Frans Nielsen at the point instead of Visnovsky limits them to more of an umbrella approach. Nielsen can gain the zone and move the puck well, but the opposition PK is not going to fear his shot from distance.
The Islanders' morning skate updates include the following Lubo-less D pairings:
Yep, they're in for a challenge the next couple of nights without Lubo.
And here's an Isles TV bit from yesterday's practice, focusing on a few Islanders' connections to Canadien Max Pacioretty:
Leave your FIG picks over in this thread (now with updated standings). And don't pick Visnovsky.