Everyone in Minnesota talks like they talk in the movie "Fargo." You betcha: everyone. (That's not true ... but I have friends and family in Minnesota for whom this impression is a pet peeve, so it's fun to repeat it.)
I probably undersold the Wild's troubles in yesterday's post. The 3-2 home loss to the Coyotes had everyone throwing conniptions yesterday. It seems coach Todd Richards has said no more Mr. Nice Guy, so if the struggling Wild players have any pride and passion in them, they will at minimum make tonight's game a war. The atmosphere around the team is tight, complicated by the fact a coach who hasn't built up NHL credibility yet has a weak roster to work with. Sound familiar?
To quote beatwriter Mike Russo (who also reports that Martin Havlat is questionable): "If they lose to the Islanders, I can't even imagine what these days will be like between Friday and the next game against Boston on Wednesday."
Bring it, Isles. Put on a show for Kyle Okposo's family and friends. Exacerbate someone else's problems in a most delightful way.
The Islanders were swept by the Wild last season (yes, there's always a few East-West crossovers that happen twice), so I'd be thrilled with a little revenge in their only meeting this year. Last March, the 6-2 loss was a little chippy. With a new coach and new scheme in place for the
North Stars home team, I don't put much stock in how the Isles have historically done in St. Paul. These are two different teams in different situations than even last year.
One difference: The Islanders have now scored four-plus goals in five consecutive games -- reportedly the first time since December 1993. (So, not the magical 1992-93 season.) More, please.
Another: I'm knocking on wood here with all the knuckle-busting fury I can muster, but the Islanders are fairly hea-...heal-...healthy. Instead of leading the league like they have most of the last three seasons, they're currently middle-of-the-pack in man-games lost to injury. I don't for a moment pretend this is a deep team, but it's a good sign what they've been able to do without Doug Weight, Radek Martinek and of course Rick DiPietro.
The Wild, meanwhile, might be without Havlat and are definitely missing Petr Sykora and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has been suspended for having too many first names.
Lineup Notes: The lines appear the same, with Richard "3 assist night" Park still with the top line and Okposo lined up with Frans Nielsen and Sean Bergenheim. Brendan Witt is back with the team, so...will the fact he hasn't skated in a week be enough for Scott Gordon to keep him out? Will someone else sit to let Andrew MacDonald get another look? Speaking of Bridgeport defenseman, Mike Fornabaio pointed to a nice look at former Sound Tiger/Islander Joe Callahan and why he moved on to San Jose's system.
In Goal: Are we inching away from the platoon? Has Dwayne Roloson's last two starts created some room for him to run? The Wild are one of his former teams, though they're hardly recognizable from his days there.
Other Reading: Nick at Let There be Light(house) has another reasoned take on the state of external affairs, this time prompted by the Newsday article on the Islanders' financial situation (Forbes says they lost 3% of value, though in reality most of the league has suffered).
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The Wild give up a lot of goals, don't score a lot of goals, and have good goaltending and average special teams. Even if the Wild come out from a coach tongue-lashing with renewed fire and brimstone, this is a very winnable game for the Isles. WebBard noted that if the Isles can take the points they "should" take on this road trip, we'll know they've reached a new level of maturity.
Like a few others, I'll take it one step further: They need to show they can win these winnable games (with 3 games in 4 nights, no less), but the real measure of where they are will be how they handle games against the Flyers and Penguins on either side of Thanksgiving. The Islanders are 1-1-1 within the division so far. I'm both nervous and excited, as I believe a week from tonight I'll have a much firmer picture on where I think this team can go.
Prediction: It goes to overtime, so Okposo should probably win it, no?
Another live game thread tonight. If you're new or lurking, don't hesitate to weigh in on any post even if your view opposes what you might think is a majority on one topic or another. Thanks to everybody for your comments, your participation, your content -- and for your witty humor and keeping it cool. You all are making this little experiment fun.