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Islanders Gameday: Matt Martin snowstorm hits Pittsburgh

For one day at least, we are allowed unfettered hyperbole over Matt Martin's impressive first NHL game. It's shocking, really, how refreshing his game was against the Predators. In the final minute, his physical play on the boards and his pass helped salvage a point. Here's hoping he keeps it up so we have something new to dream about during the Olympic break.

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New York Islanders (24-27-8, 13th/E) at Pittsburgh Penguins (35-22-2, 4th/E)
7:30 p.m. EST | [Igloo once and forever] Arena | MSG+2 (twice the plus!), radio
Send shovels and hot cocoa to: PensBurgh

Other than "any given Sunday," there really is no superficial reason of any sort to expect the Islanders to win this game. Playing the second of back-to-backs, adding travel through snow, to face a team that's been waiting at home to recover from two weekend road losses. Plus the small matter of a talent mismatch, as well as a special teams disparity (15.6 and 75.6% vs. 16.1 and 82.8%).

But that's why they play the games; that's why Vegas shows little interest in hockey. Maybe a goalie -- be he Dwayne Roloson or Rick DiPietro -- stands on his head. Maybe Matt Martin's presence in front of the net enables the Islanders powerplay to score on one-man advantages as well as two-man ones. Maybe last night's last-minute comeback and shootout win creates the good vibes needed to inspire a heroic effort. Certainly the Islanders have played the defending Stanley Cup champions well this season. Hope springs eternal.

Lineup Shenanigans

With Martin Biron staying behind on Long Island, the Biron Trade Showcase Week pauses. The last non-Biron start was DiPietro's loss against Carolina. I'm sure we'll know who gets the start by, um, game time.

Jeff Tambellini and captain Doug Weight sat out last night. Tambellini is in purgatory, and Weight has been sitting out practice skates recently, playing as he is through a bum shoulder. The implication was that he was held out of back-to-backs so he could play on the road tonight, meaning someone else sits. Jon Sim played under six minutes last night and did not see the ice after he failed to get the puck in deep during a second-period shift, leading to a breakaway goal when the Islanders defense pair tried to make a change.

Playoff Context

For the Islanders, maintaining hope of a playoff push means rescuing points before the Olympic break to compensate for the just-ended seven-game losing streak. Sure, we have our "tank" proponents in Islanders Country, but I'd think all rational beings are aware that welcoming losses is not an option for a professional sports franchise in this situation. The Islanders are thin enough on their own, without the help of an ulterior agenda. Play the games and allow the chips to fall.

For the Penguins, remarkably they are now in a three-way tie for third in the East with Buffalo and Caps-hot Ottawa. Each has 72 points. The Pens are nipping at New Jersey's heels for the Atlantic lead and are in no real danger of falling back to the start-on-the road half of the playoff picture. But lose a few more games -- including one to the 27th-place Islanders -- and things would start to feel uncomfortable going into the break.

This and That

Mike Fornabaio has an injury update on Mark Katic, who's shoulder is getting evaluated. Mamas, don't let your sons grow up to be Islanders blueline prospects; not if you care about their shoulders, anyway [Update: Worst-case scenario. Katic is done for the year] ... Per BC's FanShot, had more on Matt Martin's debut and presence on the powerplay ... AOL FanHouse had a cool update on the real cap hit that various trade deadline candidates would require. Your cap figure during the year is pro-rated, so if you haven't spent the money yet, you can take on a high-dollar guy if you have room for his remaining salary. ... The Penguins recalled forward Mark Letestu and he is expected to play. I've no insight there -- I just wanted to say "Letestu" out loud. Now you're wondering if I say this stuff out loud as I type? That's between me and the monkey.

Prediction: Matt Martin continues to impress. The Islanders nab a point, stirring "if and but" playoff calculations just a wee bit more.