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Islanders Gameday: Blackhawks in, and Andy Sutton...?

NHL hockey, you say? I think I remember it from somewhere ... ah yes, last time I saw it, the Islanders were squandering two points to finish a 2-8 pre-Olympics spiral that pretty much iced their playoff hopes. Now on the ice they're facing an impossible uphill battle (24 teams resume action tonight), while off the ice they're reported to be weighing offers for 6'6" Andy Sutton. Their next three standings points will bring them up to where they finished last year.

Chi-feathers_medium                 Nyi-lhlow_medium
Chicago Blackhawks (41-15-5, 2nd/W) at New York Islanders (25-29-8, 13th/E)
7 p.m. EST | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] V.M. Coliseum | MSG+, radio
Feathers, not dots: Second City Hockey

Gotta hand it to XNBC: After two weeks of that experience, I'm actually happy to see MSG-plus-squared.

Way back in Fall, this is the game we looked at with scheduling intrigue, hoping thinking that by the NHL Trade Deadline the Hawks just might need a goaltending upgrade and cap relief, while the Islanders just might be the team to help with both. But the Hawks have worked things where they can afford to postpone their cap decisions until summer, and while the talk is still of the daunting uncertainty in their net, the performance of Martin Biron -- this year's designated pump-and-dump -- has not been the kind that makes a Cup contender say, that man is our answer.

My burning question as we sit here this a.m. is: Does Andy Sutton play this game? [Update: Uh, no.]

[NOTE: Obviously the entirety of this post was written before today's trade.]

All signs point to Sutton taking the first train out to the highest renter before tomorrow's 3 p.m. circus deadline. But roster-wise, the Islanders are full: Josh Bailey, Jack Hillen and Tim Jackman all come off IR today, putting the Isles back to a 23-man roster, including just six healthy defensemen and three goalies (with the latest knee swelling, Garth Snow meets with Rick DiPietro's doctors tonight). Thankfully this is a home game, so if Snow suddenly gets an urgent offer he can't refuse for Sutton or a goalie, an emergency replacement is within reach: Bridgeport plays at home tonight.

Meanwhile, if Snow is holding out for a 2nd-rounder-plus offer, are there enough bidders and a small enough pool of available defensemen for him to count on a deal?

Nashville has lifted RFA Denis Grebeshkov out of Edmonton, freeing UFA Dan Hamhuis for rent ... Philadelphia has waived Riley Cote and placed Ray Emery on IR, potentially freeing up about $2 million in space for a cap hit like Hamhuis ... Pittsburgh has already grabbed their man Jordan Leopold out of Florida ... Washington might like to improve their defensive depth, but George McPhee pledges not to get silly with mortgages for short-term gain ... Ottawa wants another defenseman but doesn't want to interfere with their top four and doesn't even like the price Pittsburgh paid for Leopold ... Niclas Wallin already went to San Jose before the break, but Carolina has more defensemen to offer who might water down Snow's leverage. As does Florida.

... And while we're at it, in the realm of goaltenders, Slovakian Olympic stud Jaroslav Halak was not at the Habs morning skate in Boston. And Chris Botta says the Flyers are keenly interested in Dwayne Roloson.

So while Snow waits out the market, figure Sutton to play tonight, and to get a warm send-off from the home fans, and to get his mercenary orders some time between tonight's 1st star interview and tomorrow's Oprah.

Olympians Come Home

Also getting a warm greeting should be Olympian Mark Streit, and maybe even the Hawks Slovakians, plus Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and a third of the Hawks' defensmen who all played in that game you might have heard something about on Sunday.

Whether those guys' gold-medal game (or bronze loss, in the Slovakians' case) hangover helps the Islanders tonight, we'll see. But either way, this is going to feel a little bit like the opening game of the season all over again: Guys returning from multiple destinations, practicing together but not playing "real" games, inviting a bit of the chaos and lack of system discipline that can drive a coach nuts.

Expect Dwayne Roloson and ANtti Niemi in net.

2009-10 - Dwayne Roloson 38 2246 19 13 107 2.86 1162 1055 .908 1

2009-10 - Antti Niemi 22 1279 17 4 46 2.16 530 484 .913 4


Islanders Who Need To Finish Strong

Josh Bailey -- Returning for a poorly timed injury (which probably was a factor in the Islanders' pre-Olympic spin), Bailey needs to pick up where he left off (55GP, 13g, 14a)  and finish his sophomore year strong.

Kyle Okposo -- The Islanders' leading scorer with 40 points, KO needs to take his Olympic snub to heart and make a push for a 20-goal season. He was minus-4 with 1 goal, 2 assists in the final seven games before the break.

John Tavares -- The biggest slump of them all, the once-hot rookie has scored once since Dec. 23 and zero goals in his last 14 games. He needs to show he recharged his batteries over the break and is ready to return to his October form.

Tim Jackman -- Apparently returning to the lineup, he'll be playing for another contract. Though having to wear face protection for now because of the broken orbital bone, Jackman needs to come out like the physical energy guy he can be, and he needs to hold his own at 5-on-5.

Dwayne Roloson -- (Provided he stays...) With the loss of regular work thanks to Rick DiPietro's return, Roloson's once-elite form suffered in the New Year. With one year left on his deal and possibly in his career, he needs to make a case that he can be counted on even when he's not getting every start.

You can add any number of others, but I'll stop there.

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As for trade deadline stuff, if something with the Islanders breaks, I'll post a new thread. Otherwise, feel free to continue the deadline talk in the previous thread or start anew in this one. The usual in-game chat thread will also be up by game time.

Prediction: Patrick Kane munches on his mouthpiece.

This and That

Last July I was asked by for two "breakout" projections on the Islanders. I don't really do fantasy, but I thought taking a shot at who might improve their point production could be achievable enough. Well, now 62 games in, they've revisited the picks, and let's just say one I nailed, and one I bombed.

That's life in a rebuild, I suppose. In my defense, this was back before anyone knew who Matt Moulson was, and I was instructed to pick someone fantasy wonks wouldn't see as obvious.