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Surging Panthers at surge-ish Islanders

The Panthers spanked the Habs the other night in a very entertaining show. I'm frankly glad for them, as they deserve an inspired run like this amid the Jay-Bo dilemma. Hope they're a little less charged tonight, though.

Programming note: Both myself and Whale4ever of the SBN Panthers blog Litter Box Cats will be guests on the Hockey Night on Long Island podcast this afternoon, starting at 3:30 Eastern. Archive will be up later, but during the show fellow fans can call in or chat and call us Bettmans.

Fla-clawr_medium          Nassau-square_medium

Florida hot-hot Panthers (23-17-8, 8th/E) at New York Islanders (14-29-5, 30th)

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

Panthers rebuttals (including the carrot to entice Craig Anderson
to the Orange and Blue): Litter Box Cats

"The Islanders will look for their third-straight victory..." (official site)

Man, that looks funny. In 30th place, two wins 7 days apart will do that to you.

"In a long, hard-to-watch season of one defeat after another, a little ray of hope for the future pierced the darkness of a tough winter for Islanders fans. In their first game as a line, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau delivered big-time." (Logan's blog)

That looks weird but not unexpected. It's been a long, cold winter, and it will remain trying. But this is what this season was about, going back to Draft Day 2008 if not before. Garth Snow very clearly -- with or without Ted Nolan on board -- made the decisive turn to rebuild the proper way. When your cupboard is bare, that decision to rebuild means dealing with some pain (perhaps one reason Nolan wanted no part of it on his coaching record).

With Nolan out, it was time to try out not only young players but also a young coach with a new approach. The miracle is that Snow was able to bring in to key veterans in Streit and Weight to play along; the relief is that it hasn't caused more of the feared veteran rebellion.

We can complain and disagree over the details (Comeau shoulda been up all season! Tambellini shouldn't have been re-signed! Give this Trevor Smith a longer look!). But in the deepest nook or our fan hearts, the part where we don't die a new death with each loss, we knew that -- big-picture-wise -- this season needed to play out just as it has.

Young hockey players are gambles. You just never know who will become a Datsyuk and who will become a Daigle. So when doing a ground-up rebuild, you have to try out every asset you have. Throw them all at the wall and see who sticks. Entering this season Okposo, Bailey and Comeau were clearly the three most likely to rise to the top (well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here), but each has had growing pains this year just like any prospect.

All this pain is necessary. But periodically we get glimpses of why it's worth it.