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Islanders look to pull closer to...half the Sharks

The Islanders have played 39 games, the Sharks have played 37, and San Jose has more than twice as many points in the standings. There's your stinking game preview right there.

Scott Gordon has been in this territory before; he may remember what it feels like for players to go through a season like this. Perhaps that explains a lot of the surreal "happy talk" fans have noticed after disappointing losses this season? Is it Gordon worrying that at some point, you risk losing your guys if you're berating them for being ... who they are each game? So you look for the positives and get them to buy into the notion they're building something here (even if half of them will be gone like Dave Lewis by the time glory success still-contending-in-January arrives)?

I don't know, but it will be interesting to see how Gordon handles things if the season continues to flirt with 1990-92 Nordique territory.

Isle-east_medium Sj-teeth_medium

New York Islanders (12-23-4, 30th) at San Jose Sharks (28-4-5, 1st uber alles)

10-freaking-30 p.m. EST | [PC cow palace+] Pavilion | MSG+

Home of spoiled fans: Fear the Fin

Rebuild Tour Stop #2: San Jose

This is stop #2 in the Isles' Western how-to-rebuild tour. The Sharks didn't so much "rebuild" as steadily, slowly ascend -- almost '70s Islanders-like, minus (or at least before) the Cups -- since their expansion debut. The Sharks have been lucky in that they had some of the coveted new-market, early-era expansion competitiveness -- I mean, who outside of Detroit didn't relish that sweet, historic 1994 upset? -- without suffering the fall back to Earth that hit compete-now Florida and Tampa Bay.

In short, the Sharks have steadily horded assets and iced entertaining teams without first suffering the sheer Nordique-esque misery that afflicted Ottawa before the Senators' rise. Now they're reaping the regular-season rewards of such discipline.

Better yet: while the Senators appear to have peaked, the Sharks have not yet tattooed "Playoff Choke" on their foreheads (despite their haters' desire to do the tattooing). Rather, the Sharks have continued to improve to the point where this year's team looks better than ever -- perhaps historically good, in NHL terms.

Alas, one-game samples make for delightful poetry. And people love to pretend that surviving a 16-team tournament is pure science rather than -- at least in part -- crapshoot. So if the Sharks again fail to pass round 2 of the playoffs this year, the same old character questions and sports cliches will arise. Joe Thornton will again become "a perimeter player," and Patrick Marleau will again have "no heart."

While there's a kernel of truth in any meme, there's also exaggeration in every cute sportswriter columnist summation of events. So for the sake of hockey, clarity and redemption -- and in recognition of how the Islanders, too, were once labelled "chokes" before they reeled off 19 consecutive playoff series victories and four Cups -- here's hoping the build-it-right Sharks go far in this year's playoffs. But here's also hoping they turn in an uncharacteristic failure of a game tonight.

Oh, and no "personal" injuries tonight.

New York Islanders Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Trent Hunter upper body 12.30.2008


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rick DiPietro groin 12.30.2008

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Radek Martinek right shoulder 12.5.2008
Nate Thompson broken ankle 12.16.2008
Andy Sutton broken right foot 12.20.2008
Andy Hilbert hairline fracture in left foot 12.27.2008
Frans Nielsen right leg 11.22.2008

San Jose Sharks Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Devin Setoguchi personal 12.30.2008

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jeremy Roenick right shoulder surgery 12.12.2008
Torrey Mitchell broken left leg 9.24.2008