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Cartoons from the Closet: Ducks visit Islanders

It is rare that I could be even marginally pleased by a Rangers non-loss. But in last night's case, it saved the Isles from being the lone defenders of The Empire State -- which is at risk, with every depraved Ducks' bender through the region, of the sick cartoon-state assault game played by the heathens behind Battle of California.

(Clearly, everyone has aesthetic moments they later instantly regret.)

Ana-flyduck_medium          Nyi-fisher_medium

Anaheim Ducks (23-20-5, 7th/West) at New York Islanders (12-29-5, 30th)

7 p.m. EST | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Vets' Memorial Coliseum | MSG+2

Duck blog of choice (follow their blogroll for more): Battle of California

With the Ducks playing back-to-back and feeling freshly wounded from their visit to the Garden, I suspect they'll be driven to salvage rather than dialing back for an "easy" game before a night in the cold on the town. So I'm not looking forward to this last game before the skills competitions -- the ones that don't count for extra points in the standings -- begin.

But our coach is optimistic:

"I'm actually not looking forward to the All-Star break, because I've been energized by the play of our young players," said Gordon. "They're responding to the extra ice time well and increased their physical play. I'm happy with how well we've played three out of the last four games. We played well against three good teams. It shows a lot about the progress we've made. It's made me excited about coming to the rink every day."

I will be kind and say I admire Gordon's singular focus, his encouragement of the players on whom his future depends, and his ability to look forward to work amid an eight-game losing streak. But while the youngsters have shown promise, the team's overall lack of finish makes me welcome the All-Star break and whatever non-injury-induced roster news may come soon afterward.

Frankly, I don't know which three games Gordon's talking about, because I think Washington, New Jersey and Calgary (technically five games ago) were all poorly played games against cat-like teams who played down to the Islanders' level before finishing the mouse once toying with it got boring. But you could argue the Rangers and Bruins games were alright. So two out of the five losses weren't bad; we got that goin' for us ... which is nice.

Ducky Business

On the Ducks' side, it should be fun to see Bobby Ryan, the heralded #2 pick who is finally getting the time to shine, notching his 14th goal in just his 30th game last night -- this after an incredible highlight reel hat trick a week ago. We wish the Calder Trophy upon him and the Battle of California fiends who dread it.

If you like to boo Chris Pronger -- and most NHL fans do -- he'll be there, and you can remind him of his stomping suspension and ask him why Chris Simon's landed him in Russia.

Isles Notes