It's not quite Hockey Night in Canada, but the Islanders would still do well to put on a decent show when they visit the Flyers at [cable or bank-and-such] Center on Hockey Night In itty-bitty-USA-Versus tonight. [Update: Now Andy Sutton has the flu in addition to Thompson; Towering Mitch Fritz and D Joe Callahan are called up in their place.]
A while back, in a fit of Go-Go Gordon excitement, I wrote that the style coach Scott Gordon was installing was good news for fans of rebuilding NHL teams everywhere: Instead of just trying to "get by" the lean years with dull trap-like tendencies, Gordon was using speed and the cheap, disposable assets of hungry excitable youth to produce an exciting (if at times heartbreaking) brand of up-tempo hockey. I have few rules, but one of them is: A gonzo forecheck will win my entertainment dollar over guys sitting back in the neutral zone, every time.
Of course, since that raving ode, Operation Overspeed -- or its execution -- has faltered some. The team isn't playing with the same zing. Granted, there are injuries to some of those young excitable parts -- Frans Nielsen's injury perhaps even more damaging to the team's look than Kyle Okposo's. But the reality is the Islanders have not sustained the forecheck Gordon seeks for several games now (Atlanta doesn't count, not when you lose 5-1). They've dropped 3 in a row, and 5 of 6.
But tonight must be different. I implore them:
You're in the spotlight, boys. I know you just played last night. I know Nate Thompson's mid-game departure implies there's a flu bug lurking on this road trip. I know you're beaten up. But it would do the franchise well to put in a good showing. To show random Isles-dismissing fans and potential future free-agent teammates that:
Hey, maybe Long Island would be a nice place to play, after all. That Scott Gordon, he runs a nice style. That old Doug Weight is putting up points like they renamed Nassau Northlands Coliseum. Who's this hungry Blake Comeau who seems to be everywhere?
Just give us these little doses to cheer, please, and we'll be with you through this wee rebuild all the way.