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Islanders Gameday: Panthers prepare for the Schremp Experience

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Gordon will likely use Bailey on the left wing for at least a bit to give his young center more ice time. Beyond John Tavares' offensive production and Frans Nielsen's solid defensive play, Gordon said he is seeing a lot of potential out of fellow centerman Rob Schremp right now and wants to keep him in the mix.

>>Katie Strang, Isles Files (sub.)

Rob Schremp has two powerplay points and two minus-1's in his last two games. On the surface, that is the rap on him in a nutshell. But in reality, neither goal against falls on him and in fact, in two games since his return from a long spell waiting as a healthy scratch, he has held his own just fine. Holding his own, considering his potential to help the powerplay, is not a bad proposition. So tonight, fresh off his entertaining first NHL goal celebration, the Schremp Experience (and the Jesse Joensuu Sequel) continues.

Fla-eyel_medium              Isle-east_medium
Florida Panthers (12-14-7) at New York Islanders (12-13-7)
7 p.m. EST  |  Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Coliseum  |  MSG+, radio
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If only Schremp could play defense. No really -- I mean if only Schremp were a defenseman. Because the Isles are running a little low in that department. They're deep enough at center to have two checking centers on the fourth line and give 2008 1st-rounder Bailey a spell on wing, but the blueline is thin and crippled.

Today's morning skate probably determines whether Andy Sutton returns from his groin injury or banged-up Jack Hillen gives it a go after a shot off the foot took him out of the Bruins game. Failing that, next-in-line Dustin Kohn is battling an abdominal strain, so ... take a number. [UPDATE: Strang says both Sutton and Hillen are in tonight, which means the next drama is...who's scratched? You know I hope it's not MacDonald, but...]

Streaky Kittens

Not that the Islanders can whine about injuries. The Panthers come in still without last year's breakout scorer David Booth, as well as reliable producer Cory Stillman. Greg Campbell and Dominic Moore are listed as "day to day."

And the Panthers have a nearly identical record to the Islanders', though rather than hop around both sides of .500 like the Isles have, the Panthers have been a streaky team. They've had four separate streaks of at least four losses (granted, two of them were shootout-inflated), while November featured a run of eight consecutive games where they salvaged at least a point (5-0-3, including two shootout wins). Tonight they arrive after beating the Devils outright Friday night and losing to the Penguins Saturday in OT. Wish I could say this is an oughta-win for the Isles, but the Cats can surprise.

Still, the Isles edge the Panthers in most team stats: More shots per game, more goals, fewer shots against, fewer goals allowed, better special teams. More #1 goalies, too. Which brings us to...

The Goalies

Scott Gordon has an interesting decision here, with the Rangers home-and-home coming up Wednesday and Thursday. Though they all count the same, those Rangers games are "big." Would Gordon put Old Man Roloson out there on back-to-back nights? And, assuming he wouldn't, would he give Martin Biron tonight's start to make sure he doesn't enter the Rangers series without having seen game action in over a week? [Update: Roloson was first off the ice this a.m.]

For what it's worth, in these teams' previous meeting, Dwayne Roloson gave up four goals on 42 shots as the Panthers took the shootout bonus point. Tomas Vokoun played in that one, stopping 36 of 40 Islanders shots.

Whoever the choices are, given these teams' go-go shooting gallery nature, I suspect they'll face a lot of pucks again.

Prediction: Josh Bailey gets a shot on goal. Rob Schremp Hockey gets a powerplay point.