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Islanders Gameday: Similar standing, different directions

Sean Begenheim isn't walking through that door.
Sean Begenheim isn't walking through that door.

It has to be maddening to make the Stanley Cup finals after a long road from expansion doormat to legit team to annual playoff participant, only to fall short and then, instead of sustaining that contender status, taking a step back each season afterward. For Anaheim, after the surprise run to the finals in 2003, they fell back to reality -- but then the gift of Niedermayer's Home Time Zone and Mrs. Pronger's Preference helped them rebound and win it all in 2007.

Not so for Ottawa, the Ducks' finals victim that year. Like Anaheim, Ottawa fell back after their turn as Cup runners-up, but there has been no rebound. Now all the talk north of the border is of a looming housecleaning possibly taking current players, a coach and a GM with it. The best player in franchise history is getting older, his proverbial "window" getting small. In a 30-team league, you can build "the right way" and still get nothing thanks to a critical mistake, a run of poor luck, a petulant player's trade demand after you committed the world to him. For fans, if you don't enjoy the process of trying to get there, beware: That moment near the top can be fleeting.

At the season's midpoint the Senators sit just five points ahead of the Islanders, who have two games in hand and not too long ago won 1 out of 21 games. While the Islanders have been hot lately and still have the promise of long-term rebuilding progress to look to, the Senators are in that post-build phase that brings difficult decisions on whom to keep, whom to trade for parts, and whom to discard like yesterday's Redden.

Note: After the snow earlier this week, tonight's game (and Saturday's) are $20.11 nights again.

Ott-left_medium                 Nyi-y_medium
Senators (16-21-6) @ Islanders (13-21-7)
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
7 p.m. EST | MSG+, audio -
WRHU 88.7
Wondering if Dan(n)y Heatley was on to something (Yeah: Himself!):
Silver Seven Sens

Game Notes

  • A symbol that looking past today has begun for the Sens: Robin Lehner gets his first NHL start tonight.
  • Stats-wise after about 40 games, these two teams' have similar PP and PK rates, similar GF/GA rates, and similar shots for rates. The Isles give up about two more shots per game (32.7 vs. 30.8), but the Isles have been in 13 OT games while the Sens have only been in six. [OTT: 0-2 in shootouts, 0-4 in OT; NYI: 1-4 in shootouts, 5-3 in OT]
  • Certainly we complain about the Isles' injury slate, but the Senators' has been pretty rough this year too, with Daniel Alfredsson playing through injury early, Jason Spezza trying to play through groin trouble before a shoulder put him on the shelf now. Plus, they have the Ghost of Alexei Kovalev taking a lineup spot (though he is also injured now).
  • The Islanders say Kevin Poulin will start again tonight. I was surprised by the numbers in yesterday's poll -- and I can't tell if the results are based on pure excitement for Poulin after three games, or just the quite reasonable doubt that Rick DiPietro will solve the voodoo spell cast upon his health in time to carry the bulk of the starts in the second half.
  • Frans Nielsen remains on the shelf {sobs, plays some emo}. But seriously: Groin injuries aren't to be messed with, especially for a player like Nielsen whose dynamism -- yes, I said dynamism about the Dane -- is very dependent on his superb skating. You don't want him out there on a bad wheel.
  • And in exciting-but-cautious news: Yes, Kyle Okposo is skating in full gear. [FanShot/discussion here] But the coach and the player still say he is weeks away.

Zenon Speaks

Tonight's game is on TSN in Canada, which means many will be subjected to the ravings of a former Whalers coach who every once in a while is suggested as a GM candidate for tonight's opponent. That rumored scenario is rich enough, and I almost want to tune into that feed to see what he says about the Sens.

But then there was this from Zenon Konopka, as Tweeted by Newsday's Katie Strang [FanShot]:

Zenon Konopka just yelled up at TSN correspondent in the stands: "We're not a doormat anymore. Stop calling us a doormat."

On NHL Home Ice this morning, they were laughing at how TSN must be dreading this matchup of teams. How quickly they forget how awesome Chris Campoli is.


Islanders South

Dwayne Roloson, with some help from Sean Bergenheim and Nate Thompson, has stuck it to the Caps again. Wow. [Caps fans react at Japers' Rink; Lightning fans at Raw Charge.]


FIG Time

Repeating the rules for your First Islanders Goal pick, if you want to be counted in the season-long tally of winners:

1) You MUST reply to the first post, or your choice may be overlooked and will not count.
2) You MUST select both a player and a time. If you don't select a time, and anyone else chooses the same player as you, they get preference.
3) Easiest way to achieve the above is to put both the player name and time in the subject line, and then put other snarky or explanatory comments in the body of the comment.
4) Picks left after the opening faceoff are invalid and subject to public shaming.

As you can imagine, it gets hairy keeping track when FIG picks are all over the place. Be even better if the first person to go a-figging would post a comment titled FIG PICKS - REPLY HERE, and then reply to that one with their pick, to begin the comment tree.