So here we are at the rematch of Thursday night's
I-Don't-Suck-Anymore I'm Back party for Dion Phaneuf Theo Fleury. Shall we see vengeance and bloodlust and all the things dancing through Islanders fans' heads after seeing Kyle Okposo's concussed? No, probably not. (Mind you, the NHL is very concerned about concussions.)
Preseason is irritating for many reasons: It's really condensed, it's rushed, we're supposed to care and pay for tickets but the lineups are unpredictable and coverage of the games is spotty at best. (Last night, one of the post-game boxscores on nhl.com had "Unknown" listed next to a goal scored. Yet preseason matters, baby!)
So tonight's lineups are likely to be completely different, almost unrecognizable from the other night. Thursday was the Flames chance to show off their stars at home. Phaneuf, for example, showed off his ability to deliver a devastating hit, followed by his ability to be a sudden pacifist the rest of the night:
Scott Gordon, by the way, expressed similar sentiments to that of his players the night before. Basically, he felt Phaneuf hit Okposo while KO was in a vulnerable position and should've stepped up when challenged throughout the game.
"The admirable thing would've been to step up," Gordon said. "If you live by the sword, you die by the sword."
Phaneuf lived by the sword, then had Giordano clean the blood off for him. Regardless, even before the hit, it was unlikely Phaneuf and his bodyguards would be in Saskatoon tonight.
Still, can an Islander tough guy and NHL aspirant step up and nail a guy with a flaming 'C' on his chest? Sure. Would it send a message? Yeah ... to the league.
The league is good at pretending nothing happened the first time around. Then when retaliation happens, the league suddenly worries about its WWE reputation and says premeditated retaliation is not acceptable. (But how is it retaliation if nothing ever happened before? Welcome to Colin Lenin's world. They have magic toys there.) If something stupid happens tonight, I fully expect Colin "we take each incident as separate" Campbell to dream up a fascinating narrative to suspend someone for retaliating for something that did not exist, nor will it ever exist.
Oh by the way, if you hadn't heard or somehow didn't assume it, Pascal Morency was indeed suspended for jumping off the bench to go at Phaneuf. This is cut-and-dry. It's in the rulebook. Funny how easy discipline is when it's spelled out in the rulebook. Wish I'd thought of that.
But Eneuf about Phaneuf
Anyway, the Islanders have other stuff to worry about. Like health. Again. There's Okposo's head, Doug Weight and Sean Bergenheim's groins (that sounds awkward yet slightly kinky), and Frans Nielsen's knee, which Monday will receive arthroscopic surgery thanks, I imagine, to the last time an opponent's arm came up on an Islander's head. Four-to-six weeks for Nielsen. A top-six forward here, a top-six forward there, sooner or later you're talking about real injuries.
The regular season starts two weeks from today. Who will be healthy in the Islanders lineup? I almost don't want to think about it. John Tavares isn't supposed to start his rookie season being The Guy. Not just yet.
The groin injuries should be good and ready by then, but groins are as wonky as two-year-olds' tempers. So don't worry about not having a video feed for tonight's game. At the rate the Islanders sick bin is going, you'll see a lot of these guys in October.