Tonight resumes Sabres-Islanders January, a storied tradition established in 2011 that pits two teams from very different parts of the same state against each other three times in nine days. For Chapter 1 -- a happy occasion of John Tavares's second hat trick -- your Designated Preview Monkey referenced the Nolan-Satan days for common Sabres-Islanders history. But in truth, when I think of these two teams' connection I think first of the Pat LaFontaine-Pierre Turgeon trade, a trade that ripped my heart out and then quickly mended it as it worked out quite well for both sides (cowardly Capitals captain intervention aside).
Islanders (14-24-7, 14th/E) @ Sabres (21-20-5, 10th/E)
[alphabet-like substance] Arena
MSG+/MSG-B, audio - WRHU 88.7
The Other Side: Die By The Blade
As pointed out a lot around the 2009 draft, and more narrowly pointed out today by our friends at Sabres blog Die By The Blade, there is another Islanders-Buffalo connection that is light on the Sabre, but heavy on the Tavares: John Tavares's superstar uncle and early athletic mentor, John Tavares (not our John Tavares, but their John Tavares), opens his 20th season in the National Lacrosse League this weekend for the Buffalo Bandits. If John Tavares, hockey player, has anything close to the career of John Tavares, lacrosse player, then the Drive for Five will be realized and maybe the Drive for Six, too.
You might think I mention this tangential connection because I thought it was cool, or because I'm starved for ideas of how to present three Sabres-Isles tilts in three days. But Mrs. Lighthouse would tell you I mention it because we just watched my brother's four young kids twice in the last three days, including a snow day -- so right now I am delirious, on little sleep, and quite likely have Cheerios and a sticky substance of unknown origin stuck to my work pants. In her more exasperated moments as a mother, Mama Lighthouse would tell us -- as a threat, not a wishful tiding: "I hope you have children!" I now fully understand why.
About the Game, Stupid
Sorry for the personal aside. I promise it won't happen again...until the next Islanders-Sabres match. Which is Sunday.
News and Such (or: What Katie Strang Tells Us):
- Nathan Lawson gets the start tonight, and Rob Schremp Hockey might return from his one-game healthy spanking.
- UPDATE: Indeed, Schremp returns to the lineup, Trevor Gillies will be scratched. [Isles Twitter]
- Milan Jurcina's above-the-belt injury has now been diagnosed enough to put him on IR, retroactively, with a projection of two to four weeks. Dylan Reese ain't goin' nowhere.
- Doug Weight is now officially 40, which means even "Doug Weight is so old..." jokes are old.
- Since returning from injury on New Year's Day, Tim Connolly has 0 goals and 6 assists in 9 games.
- Hot and Not: The Islanders' only win in their last six games happened to be only the Sabres' second loss in their last seven. In fact, the Sabres are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and Ryan Miller has been hot, particularly so in a 4-2 win over the Bruins the other night.
- Despite this spurt, Buffalo is still seven points and two slots behind 8th-place Atlanta in the East. I think they're better than people think, and Miller is Miller, but don't see how the Sabres make it with Derek Roy on the shelf for the year. It'd be cool if I was wrong though.
Just Like The / Old Man In / That Net Named Nabokov / Don't Stand So Close...
There has been lots of speculation on this, so...the Islanders have until Saturday at noon to claim Evgeni Nabokov if they want to. Part of me is in favor of it just in the name of jobbing their fellow NHL teams. After all, when the Isles were in need, Columbus stole Dubie and then hardly used him. (And more recently, St. Louis has been waiver-jobbed twice this year, losing both Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood's waist after trying to bring them in from the KHL to replace major injuries.)
The other part of me says, "Why bother?" with bringing in the Russian who left the U.S. because he wasn't offered enough money to play goalie, only to return to play goalie for no money. If they've already made a decision on Lawson well that was quick. If they have suddenly greater concerns about the health of Rick DiPietro -- who started last night and stopped 40 shots a week ago against Buffalo -- then that's another matter.
I know it's tempting to think of it as asset hoarding -- and there's been a lot of speculation on that, too -- but here is the CBA rule on these guys who start the season in Europe:
13.23 In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers. For the balance of the Playing Season, any such Player who has been obtained via Waivers may be Traded or Loaned only after again clearing Waivers or through Waiver claim.
To put it simply: Any team that wants this guy can just claim him on waivers -- if not now, then later when the signing team would be trying to trade him. So I don't know, I mean good goalies are fun but unless their hoping to plant the seeds for a lasting relationship...
FIG + Game Thread
Since it's a busy schedule up to the All-Star Break, and since this is a late-in-the-day game post, treat this as both your preview and official in-game thread. And check out Hanssen's interesting piece on Jesse Joensuu if you haven't already.
Prediction: John Tavares has a big weekend.