The Senators are all but locked into fifth place and starting the Eastern playoffs on the road. The Islanders are all but locked into a bottom-five lottery-lovely finish and coming off the relief of beating a division rival for the first time in 15 tries. And, this game is on a Saturday afternoon.
So if this were a rec league, this would be the game where you let the star winger throw on the goalie pads, and you let the stay-at-home defenseman play cherry-picking forward. Given the stakes, the pulse in the building is to be determined, but the Islanders are 21-14-3 at the Coliseum. No doubt the crowd gives Andy Sutton a warm welcome. In the future, that welcome will be even warmer if that compensatory pick is more like Travis Hamonic and less like Dmitri Chernykh or Evgeny Tunik.
[Note: as matinees are more sparsely trafficked around here, just treat this post as the in-game thread, too.]
After his long mid-winter slump, it's been a while since we could say this, but with two assists the other night John Tavares is the Islanders' leading scorer again. His 21 goals still trail team leader Mighty Matt Moulson 's 27, but his 47 points are one more than Kyle Okposo, two more than Moulson, and three more than Mark Streit. For the history books, it will be interesting to watch how that little race turns out.
Then there was this, not relevant to today's game but still pretty cool: Despite Bridgeport's disappointing 4-1 loss to Manchester last night, Fornabaio reported this:
Rakhshani looked very good. Capuano said he was probably their best player, and that sounds about right.
Not bad for a pro debut (one assist), one week after the disappointment of being upset in the NCAA regionals. Capuano was "that boy is P.I." pissed with the effort of most of the others.
Don't Look Now, But...
At minus-19, Kyle Okposo currently has a lower season-long plus/minus than current Sound Tiger Brendan Witt's minus-18, albeit in almost twice as many games, in more minutes, and against much tougher competition. (If you didn't visit around the time of Witt's demotion, unlike last season Scott Gordon actually sheltered Witt at even-strength this year, which is probably why the Islanders made the tough decision of demoting the respected veteran.) So I'm not worried there, and we know the vagaries of plus-minus, and K.O. is young and playing in a multitude of important situations, so it's fine. I'll be worried if he's minus-19 next year at this time.
Speaking of Streaks
Remember when the Islanders had a Flyers-like streak of mostly futility against Ottawa? I guess it's all in where you cut off the dates, but they mostly broke that last year, going 3-1. (Ironically, the futility was broken with the help of a star turn by steady soldier Freddy Meyer IV, who is now once again performing admirably as Andy Sutton Jr.)
Anyway, while the Isles had success against the SNES last year, this season they've lost all three games, all by one goal. So while today's game means all of nothing, if the Isles lose it will be included in next year's previews that begin, "The Senators had the Islanders number last year, as the Isles haven't beaten them since 2008."
Not that he will play again this season, but Rob Schremp Hockey is skating again. That's just good news for everyone, except Oilers fans. (That's not fair; many Oilers fans wish him well, even if his success is a reflection of a rot they're still dealing with.)
More on Blake Comeau
So we've all marveled at Comeau's growth in the second half. From starting Scott Gordon's tenure in the minors, to being a trusted penalty killer, to a sustained run on John Tavares' wing, Comeau's come a long way. Gordon's quote as reported by Katie Strang sums up the next step:
"The key for him is to do that over the course of a whole season. For me, that will be the next step as far as identifying what he is as a player."
Indeed. Next year there's likely to be at least one more scoring winger in the mix. Comeau will have competition to keep this up.
Prediction: Andy Sutton gets a nice applause. Chris Campoli gets ... ice time.