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Islanders Gameday: A little cat meat would make this a party

Now, I'm just getting greedy. With 3 points out of 4 so far on the road trip -- and seventh place in the East (one point behind the filthy Rangers) momentarily in hand -- I want more, against a Panthers squad that can provide it, so long as their doggone super-Czech goalie doesn't get in the way. So come on boys: Make this a trip to remember and bring us back a cat carcass, lightly seared. (Note: An actual Panther would be of poor taste and, in fact, against the law.)

Nyi-n_medium                 Fla-clawr_medium

New York Islanders (7-6-6) at Florida Panthers (6-9-1)
7 p.m. EST  |  [
it's a bank! it's an ocean!] Center  |  MSG+, audio
Focal point of fine feline frolic:
Litter Box Cats

Completely Random Fact of the Day: Since the Panthers entered the league, the Islanders have played them in November nine times, outscoring them 30-16 and winning 5, losing 1, and tying 3 (yes Virginia, this league used to have ties).

This quote from Scott Gordon, after John Tavares's two goals last night, struck me as pretty cool and reflective of reality:

"Every day he's getting better," Scott Gordon said. "I think the sky's the limit with him. The fact that he's able to produce so early in the season -- I didn't have high expectations for the kind of production that he's bringing right now. I was hopeful. But as the year progresses, and he gets used to the finer points, the game is only going to get easier for him."

Tavares is exceeding my expectations for his rookie year, with the added bonus that he's leading the Islanders (and all rookies) in scoring. The addition of him, Matt Moulson, and steady goaltenders to last year's squad is what's making the Islanders a current bubble team instead of just some laughingstock meandering through Year 2 of a rebuild. For now, it's great fun; for the future, the sky is the limit. And that's pretty sweet.

I won't always pimp SBN "brother" site content in every single game preview, but Donny "Whale4ever" at Panthers blog Litter Box Cats is one cool cat, and he's got an interesting post that catches you up on the JayBo-less Panthers: In short, their lone reliable line (sounds a little familiar) is Cory Stillman/Steven Reinprecht/Nathan Horton, while last year's secret sensation Michael Frolik has been a disappointment along with Keith Ballard and, heh, Scott "what happened to my Devils defense?!" Clemmensen.

Horton, you may have heard, has reportedly been shopped around despite GM Randy Sexton's denials. (I'm skeptical of Toronto-based trade rumors, but when multiple reporters say at different times they've heard it from multiple GMs, I start to believe he's at least in play.) At 4-7-11, Horton's not lighting it up, but he's always showed his good side against the Islanders. Reinprecht is the hotter scorer so far at 9-5-14, while David Booth is still out after the gruesome Mike Richards hit.

Despite those three scorers' success, the Panthers PP has been abysmal, sitting at 12.5%. The PK is only at 75.8%. If Scotty Bowman, in an ode to our base-10 numeric system, said a good team's special teams should add up to 100%, then the Cats are a good 12% short. (The Isles, incidentally, are currently 79.2 + 20.9, for the win.)

With that powerplay, you'd expect more from a unit backed by Bryan McCabe and rookie standout Dmitry Kulikov. I'll be interested to see how those two work together. Of course, sporting interests aside, I'd just as soon not see the Panthers' powerplay at all.


Fear the Czech

The Panthers allow a lot of shots -- something that apparently caught Clemmensen by surprise. But three of Tomas Vokoun's four victories this year came on shutouts. Last time Vokoun faced the Isles? A 31-save, 2-0 shutout. Hopefully John Tavares brings his lacrosse gear.


The Young and Fearless

When aggressive 2008-09 rookies Scott Gordon and John Anderson faced off last week, the result was a 6-3 goalfest. Gordon's matchups with Peter DeBoer last year were not quite as loose, with an average just over 4 goals per game among them.

Gordon, incidentally, has some interesting lineup decisions for tonight: The team did not exactly miss Josh Bailey and Jeff Tambellini last night, but they don't exactly deserve extended scratches, either. Rob Schremp's merits, meanwhile, are still a source of debate in our humble forum. With no morning skate, we probably won't hear that answer until close to game time.

The easy decision is in goal, with Dwayne Roloson taking the second of this back-to-back. Go Rollie, go Rollie, don't worry about that shutout maestro at the other end.

Programming Note: You can chat up the game here, and I'll post the regularly scheduled game thread at game time, too. Tonight I'm out (hopefully fraternizing with some Blues and Sharks bloggers) and will have to catch this one on DVR, but take it away at your leisure and let me know what you thought of the game.

Let's. Go. Isl-an-ders.