It all depends on your time zone, I guess. Around here we have Isles fans from Nova Scotia to L.A., Florida to British Columbia. (Switzerland and the Czech Republic, too, but it's safe to say no weeknight game time is a great time for them.) But here begins the latest of road trips, with 10 p.m. EDT starts Tuesday and Friday, followed by a 10:30 EDT start Saturday at L.A.'s Swingline Center.
Time to brew your spiked coffee -- or, if you're out West, hey look: Islanders games that start after rush hour!
Whenever this rare matchup occurs, I think about the irony of Iron Mike (he's the other "mad" one) flipping fan favorite Trevor Linden to the Isles for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe, only to (a few jobs later) flip Roberto Luongo to the Canucks for the Burnt-Out Shell of Bertuzzi. Keenan sure scarred a lot of franchises, but somehow the Canucks got off pretty good. Even his carwrecks helped the Canucks. Why couldn't Milbury have landed another GM job like that and maybe sent us a kickback or two? Forget it, I'm getting all depressed now.
So anyway: the present. The Canucks are real good-like, and the biggest question hanging over their season -- "How will they survive that epic Olympian road trip?" -- has been answered: "Just fine, thanks." They finally returned home last weekend and swept two games against Canadian teams, which if some syrup-tinted Toronto columnists had their way would mean they just beat 33% of the league.
Mikael "Team Sweden can go f**k itself" Samuelsson is on a tear (which reminds me I should probably check that fantasy team I got roped into last fall. I probably had him benched.). That's a bummer because when you're game planning about how to stop the Canucks' firepower, the former Red Wing isn't at the top of your list.
This game could be the toughest of the trip, although that second night of back-to-backs in Southern California looks scary. The Islanders have had modest success against the West this year, but with the exception of the 6-0 annihilation of the Red Wings, it hasn't really come convincingly against the West's better teams: The win over Colorado was a nail-biter, the win in Phoenix was a shootout aided by that epic major Tippett powerplay, and the Chicago win was on 2nd Annual Chicago Toys With Us But We Win Anyway Day.
That's not to say I don't think the Isles have a chance -- it's NHL hockey, unless you're Edmonton you always have a chance. But if they're going to pull off the upset, it's going to be in a way that has me slamming coffee and pacing grooves in the floor in the wee hours of the morning. And it might involve a breakaway drill. Like last time.
Matt Martin was reassigned to Bridgeport after his emergency callup, so presumably Jeff Tambellini's groin will be good to go. (huh huh, huh huh)
Also ready to go: Trevor Gillies, subject of an "enforcer character" piece at the official site. It sounds like Scott Gordon likes having him around for now:
"He is able to deflect a lot of attention that would normally be focused on other guys in our lineup onto himself," Gordon said. "The opposition doesn’t have time to pay attention to punishing other guys to get them off their games because he takes it upon himself to absorb it all."
I'm sure his teammates like having him around, too. At this point in the season, I'm not bothered by Martin getting all-around experience in the AHL while Gillies gets a taste of the good life at age 31 for a few minutes a night. I like that he hasn't gone picking fights just for the sake of showing, "Hey, I fight," either. Subject to change, of course.
Some Pertinent Reading
- The Ovechkin Suspension/Cooke Non-Suspension: The what-it-all-means take from Eric Duhatschek, and the just fire Campbell already take from Chris Botta. Two very different tones, but each reflecting the mess that the NHL has made for itself. (By the way, I found Ovechkin's shove of Campbell from behind at that distance to the boards reckless and deplorable, but not malicious like some headshot assassin like Cooke.)
- Heads up from Hans und Franz's FanShot: An updated Isles prospect ranking from Hockey's Future with some curious choices.
- Gary Harding of View from Section 317 is road-tripping to take in all three West Coast games.
- Okposo Net talked F1 racing with Sean Bergenheim. Those Finns and their cars, man.
- Mike Modano made it this far in his career before his appendix gave out. Yikes.
- This was posted later yesterday, but if you haven't seen it or weighed in I did a little comparison of Garth Snow's roster from two years ago to now, to check how the rebuild is coming along.
- If you have DirecTV, you probably heard you finally get Versus back. Details here. Sounds like NHL playoffs and MMA made DTV finally blink. Hooray for corporate tussles!
By the way, you should check out SBN's Nucks Misconduct. Not only did they just do a nice charity drive for the Canucks' charity, but one of their writers, "Yankee Canuck," roots for a team on his opposite coast. (I know, right? Who would do such a thing?)
Prediction: Canucks fans shout "Loooouuuu" even after routine saves. Which is not half as annoying as sitting next to a hyperactive adult who shouts, "Come on Bobby Lou, that's my Bobby Lou, you got it Bobby Lou!" for two uninterrupted hours. You don't even want to know.