You're Blake Comeau. You're 24, you were a 2nd-round pick (hey, that's Andy Sutton value right there), and you were one of the select few young Islanders to shine under Ted Nolan. That brief 2007-08 splash got Islanders fans dreaming, but then you returned after the summer to find Nolan's successor believed you needed more AHL seasoning.
The road since then has been uneven -- healthy scratches, stretches of perimeter play, talk of "needs consistent effort," and the like. Except now you're on pace for your career-best year, and you've scored half of your 12 goals this season in the last three games, including your first career hat trick. Is this a turning point, or just a flash aided by Blackhawks LOLtending?
Reports of the Thrashers' post-Kovalchuk demise have been greatly exaggerated. Whether they can sustain it and make a return to the playoffs is an open, bubbly question. But it's interesting that one of the players brought in to make Ilya feel at home, Nik Antropov, is their leading scorer and a +18. That's not all Ilya's work; Antropov is a real -- and defensively responsible -- player.
The Islanders, who for some reason play the Thrashers well, are going for a sweep of sorts, having beaten Atlanta two times in regulation and once (the most recent meeting) via Tambellini-aided shootout.
An NHL Debut
With Andrew MacDonald receiving his "welcome to the Islanders, here's your injury" broken foot, the most interesting thing to watch is the NHL debut of Dylan Reese, who wasn't even Islanders property last weekend. Since moving to Bridgeport for Greg Moore in a likely pre-Sutton-dump re-allocation of resources, Reese impressed his new coach with a goal and an assist for the AHL Sound Tigers and got the call to join the club in Atlanta. With MacDonald's prognosis possibly taking him out through the rest of the season, Reese may have a golden opportunity he couldn't have imagined even two weeks ago.
MSG's Rob Carlin tweeted this about Reese, whose parents and first coach will be in attendance tonight:
Reese played with Freddy Meyer briefly in the minors.. also knew Robbie Schremp.. called him "a different bird".. but has a "ton of talent"
So Reese knows the secrets of Rob Schremp Hockey.
The Thrashers were not busy at the deadline, but they did pick up useful Sabre Clarke MacArthur and physically imposing penalty taker Evgeny Artyukhin. If you're worried about someone taking a young Islander out with a silly check tonight, Arty's your man.
The Playoff 'Push'
I know many of you are still hoping for playoffs, and I totally respect that in a "Why else do you root?" kind of way. But the road is so daunting -- with 19 games left, four teams and five points separate the Isles from 8th place -- that it's starting to feel like too much for me to hear Garth Snow talk about them being "in the thick" of the playoff hunt. They're not really in the thick.
Getting even a modest 88 points now requires going 14-5 down the stretch, and we don't even know if that's adequate. Basically, it would take a Dubielewicz-level miracle to happen.
Yet of course they have to keep pushing, they have to keep growing together. They just have to do it with a very small, suddenly inexperienced blueline.
But for each game I'm still rooting them on for a win, come hell or Taylor Hall. That's why we do the game threads. That's why we're hockey fans.
Prediction: Reese gets his first NHL point. Many goals are scored, in accordance with the NYI-Atlanta scripture.
Apologies if "who dat?" usage has already run its course for you. I've got some deep ties to New Orleans and I don't really watch NFL football, so for me it's just a timeless nod to a great city, one to which Atlanta is as close as the Isles will get until Bettman expands to Baton Rouge. Besides, I mean still: Who dat say dey gonna stop the Comeau?