We totally had insightful and brilliant research ready for today's game preview, before we heard those infamous words again: "DiPietro has slight swelling in his knee." To calm the worst fears, Rick DiPietro skated in the morning skate, leaving one to assume 1) it's not a major setback (yet), and 2) he gave it a run to see how it responds to activity even after swelling. Making things most interesting, next-in-line Nathan Lawson not only gets called on up on emergency -- he gets his first NHL start. He'll be the first Islanders goalie to make his NHL debut as a starter in nearly 10 years.
Phoenix Coyotes (14-9-7) @ New York Islanders (6-18-5)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. | MSG+, NHL audio - WRHU 88.7
Survivors of Northern Aggression: Five for Howling
As for the goalie matchup, I confess I always wanted to see Lawson get a trial at this level. He's done the ECHL-AHL rise the last few years, and the Islanders have two much more touted prospects nipping at his heels in Bridgeport -- one of whom, Mikko Koskinen, was pulled last night in favor of Lawson. So it'll be fun for me to see what he has before he possibly gets pushed out the window. That defenestration doesn't have to happen though. There is another way.
The way I've seen it, Koskinen -- coming off hip surgery that stole almost all of last season -- and Kevin Poulin are Goalies of the Future being groomed all year in the AHL. With Lawson there, that creates an awkward three-way situation. But the Islanders have a situation in the NHL that's ripe to get Lawson some time before the end of the season: 1) DiPietro and the ever-present danger of post-op knee swelling. 2) Dwayne Roloson, age 41, pending unrestricted free agent.
So the Islanders have two questions for 2011-12 in goal: 1) What kind of load can DiPietro handle? and 2) Who replaces Roloson as his partner. If Lawson wants that job, through injury (DP) or forced-to-pasture (Roli) he'll need a chance to audition. Jack Capuano of course has confidence in Lawson, as Lawson rose to prominence in the organization playing for Capuano's Bridgeport team.
Of course, the question is why now? Obviously DP's swelling answers the "why," but the "now" is a little more puzzling: Lawson's stats aren't hot in the AHL this year (.890, 3.78, 10 GP), though they're at least better than Koskinen's (.884, 3.50, 11 GP). And Koskinen was yanked after four goals last night in favor of Lawson, who let in two in 30 minutes. Still, there are a lot of reasons to question the move, and it's been questioned a lot on Twitter (more on that later) and in discussion in quin's thread. (e.g. Isn't the team fragile enough? Roloson hasn't played much lately, why not use him with the next game not until Wednesday?
But I suspect that schedule is precisely why: If DP's swelling proves minor, Lawson will likely be back in Bridgeport by Wednesday. Use the opportunity circumstances put in front of you. Here is a challenge put to Lawson -- without much time for him to think or stew about it -- so see how he handles it and add it to his file.
The Rumors: This Modern World
Not starting Roloson got many buzzing, and the rumors flying on Twitter. Katie Strang reported she was assured it has nothing to do with the coming roster freeze, which is either shorthand for "I couldn't get a straight answer" or "I was told no when I asked: Is someone being benched so as not to risk injury since he might be traded and injuring him would scuttle the trade and give the buyer time to change his mind during the roster freeze?" But that didn't stop one salacious rumor from getting its 15 kilobytes of Internet fame: Roloson is being traded! Wiz and Comeau might be with him! Meh, I'm headed to hang up me holiday lights and will see you all at game time.
I can't tell you much about Phoenix that's different from that vast pack of competitive Western teams who are beating each up every night and beating up on the East in between. There is a chunk of teams that are hard to distinguish from one another out West, and most of them will miss the playoffs while most could probably make the playoffs in the East.
- Unfortunately for the Islanders, this Coyotes road trip has started out quite poorly -- a 3-0 loss in New Jersey followed by a 3-3 shootout "loss" at Madison Square Garden two nights ago. If there was a chance of the 'Yotes taking the Isles lightly, it went out the window once the Coyotes began a six-game road stretch by going 0-1-1.
- Phoenix gets more shots on per game than the Isles (31.8 to 28.5), but they also give up more (33.2 vs. 29.9). The Coyotes have balanced scoring (2.77 GF/GP vs. 2.14 for the Isles) led in points by summer signing Ray Whitney, but there are several with 8 goals, and several more with 5 or more.
- Thanks to our strange new world, the most popular or known Coyotoe just might be enforcer Paul Bissonnette, who has played...all of 13 games this season. He played against the Rangers the other night but not against our basement brother Devils.
- Ilya Bryzgalov was a question-mark yesterday because of the flu.
- Jon Sim, who cleared waivers (no surprise), will be in the lineup.
- Calvin De Haan links: A reminder of how far he's come as he heads to his second WJC ... and speculation on whether he'll still be an Oshawa General when he gets back.
Don't know which Coyotes team will show up tonight. Don't know which Islanders will -- and maybe they'll ALL BE TRADED!!!1 But you know, that's why we watch the games.
Go Nate, go. Mayy--...Make your future. Be the ball. And this is your game thread, so don't forget your FIGs.
Cheers to 'Yotes Fans
Finally, cheers to the Coyotes fans who, after a long drawn-out saga that really goes back to the team's founding, finally appear to have some ownership stability for their team. Now I can use that old logo and the parallel stick-blades up top without feeling guilty.