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Islanders Gameday: Prove-it Time for Comeau, Joensuu

This streak will end some day, but it has to end during this home stand to keep things from getting farcical. The Panthers, who started this 11-game winless streak almost a moon ago, provide a deceptively enticing opponent at 8-9-0. They're coming off a thorough beating from the Bruins though, so no doubt in their eyes the Islanders provide  them similar hope for redemption.

Fla-eyel_medium              Nyi-oldzoom_medium
Florida Panthers (8-9-0, 26th) @ New York Islanders (4-11-3, 30th)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
7 p.m. | MSG+2 (twice the plus, 1/2 the reception!) | NHL audio - WRHU 88.7
Turning to Catnip during Work Hours: Litter Box Cats

I am reluctant to pounce on player quotes that, coming from open conversation, are selected by a reporter (even an in-house one) for use to illustrate other points. And I feel like I've been focusing on Blake Comeau or his quotes a bit much in the days since Scott Gordon's removal; in truth, several players have discussed Jack Capuano opening things up a bit. Nonetheless, a couple more quotes from Comeau have me thinking about his place with Gordon, and about what he has to prove now under Jack Capuano [to keep the de-contexted theme going, bold emphasis is mine]:

"I would consider [Capuano] a players' coach," Islanders forward Blake Comeau said. "He’s a competitive guy and he’s an intense guy when he’s on the bench. He wants guys to work hard, which I think is definitely acceptable. It’s going to be a good change. It’s a new starting point for us."

"He wants guys to go out and use their hockey sense, use their vision. I think when you get to this level, everyone is here for a reason and I think guys enjoy playing a little bit more when the game is not broken down in such a complicated way."

It is debatable whether the recent wave of more "cerebral" NHL coaching is the way to go, or at least the way to go for every lineup. But it's not debatable that Comeau just wants to play. The burden now is, if he wants to play with less structure -- again, I may be interpreting quotes too far -- then he's going to have to leverage that into production, perhaps with less PP time than he had under Gordon. Despite ample ice time and opportunity, Comeau has zero goals in his last 16 games, and just one assist in his last 10. We'll see what comes next. The ball is most definitely in his court.

Another player with the burden of "put up or move on" -- though one who's never pretended this isn't the case -- is Jesse Joensuu, Bridgeport's leading scorer (4-7-11, 16GP), who has just been recalled by the Isles.

Echoing sentiments he's shared before, Joensuu told Newsday [$5 please]: "Time is running out for me. It's time for me to show I have NHL abilities." He also mentions being hurt by his preseason cut and recalling advice from ex-Islander Tim Jackman, who took the long route to NHL regularity: Just do what you need to stick. (Jackman, of course, found fighting to be one of those things; doubt the Finn Named Jesse resorts to the same.)


Looking for Progress

I'm not exactly the ideal fan for a coaching change in that I wasn't ready to see Gordon go, so I'm not at all charged up by thinking, "THIS is what was needed!" But in terms of keeping my eyes on the team (okay, let's be honest -- as if they were going to drift away anyway), the coaching change does give me something new to look for in the games. Suddenly instead of being mired in the funk of the winless streak wondering when it will end, I'm not even focused first on the Dread of Losing but rather the Intrigue of What Jack Does.

He is making subtle changes the players are talking about. I like hockey, so I'm curious to watch how those go.

Dwayne Roloson starts tonight; Rick DiPietro starts in Atlanta tomorrow.

I won't be able to catch it live tonight; November weddings steal many a Saturday night. If you make your First Islanders Goal (FIG) pick here or in the game thread, please try to leave your pick in a reply to whomever leaves the first one.

What's the best opportunity for the Isles to break this streak? Pro Hockey Talk takes a look. (Note: I'm pretty sure by NHL records this is no longer a "losing" streak but a "winless" streak, so no records are in jeopardy anytime soon. Thank you, Shootout-Era NHL.)

Prediction: The Isles finally break the streak, via unfulfilling breakaway drill shootout.

R.I.P.: Pat Burns.


The OT Drama

The Botta Banishment continues, and Stu Hackel at his SI "Red Light" blog is the latest [h/t BC's FanShot] to defend Botta's significance for an undercovered team at a fragile time in fan relations. The audio for Gary Bettman's NHL show which addressed the topic is now up. None of this alters my view that this is a PR mistake for the Isles -- seems there is better way to resolve their on-going differences, or at least to try before revoking (if they didn't); because now criticism of the Isles piles on and Botta ironically (granted, with much help of his own) becomes the story after all. Which hilariously reinforces the point on both sides. Still, without more specific Islanders' response to the critiques beyond what was given to paywalled Newsday (something B.D. Gallof brings up in his alternative theory to the divorce), all critics are left to assume the worst.