Yet another return to the Coliseum welcomed by a snowstorm for home fans. The Hurricanes arrive with a shot at entering the All-Star Break in a playoff position -- the fruits of a long climb out of their 10-11-3 start. The Islanders come home in danger of falling into last place overall -- the consequence of falling to 3-6-1 in their last 10, combined with the Devils' surge and the Oilers' last-minute win last night.
Hurricanes (24-19-6, 9th/E) @ Islanders (15-26-7, 14th/E)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. | MSG+ - audio - WRHU 88.7
Preparing for the pageantry, and Canadian media: Canes Country
While the Islanders have been hit by injuries left, right, up, down and sideways (307 man-games so far), the Hurricanes have been a picture of health, with no one on the shelf right now. If that's their reward for their major injuries last year, then I'm sure the hockey gods' health voucher with the Islanders name on it is in the mail.
Of course, when I think of the Canes this year I think of this: That bloody November blowout, which made it two blowouts in a row after a trouncing in Philadelphia, sinking Rick DiPietro's stats and continuing the then-five-game winless streak that would get Scott Gordon fired five games later. Not good times.
Jeff Skinner has 18 goals and 22 assists in 49 games as a 5'11", 190-lbs. 18-year-old rookie. That's simply stunning, and good for him. Damn it. With good reason (the All-Star Game is all exhibition and sponsor-stroking), he's been named as an injury replacement to the game, making him the youngest participant ever, out-diapering Steve Yzerman's appearance as a "he's not Pat LaFontaine, but..." in 1984's game.
Eric Staal is still the team's once-and-future leader though, with 49 points to lead the team. (Will Staal draft his teammate?) Overall, the Canes have a nice deep lineup of sturdy forwards, with kids like Skinner and Brandon Sutter providing reinforcement from the cost-controlled youth demographic.
Staal, of course, is captain of the
Prince of Wales Conference, er Eastern, er North American, er "Team Staal" team at the All-Star Game, for which his real team and city play host. Speedy Michael Grabner is still set for the rookie skills thinga-ma-jig.
This is hopefully the last I'll speak of the All-Star Game. I'm sure it will be fun for Raleigh though, a still-growing young hockey market. As well as for the many fine official league partners like [tires], [telecom], [pyramid schemes], [insurance], [you...I don't know what it is you do...plastics maybe?].
Notes Not Conducive to Paragraph-like Structure
- Per Eric Hornick: Since scoring three times in Colorado on January 8th, the Isles power play is 4-26 (15%) in the last nine games. The Isles have killed 32 of 37 (87%) over the last 13 games.
- Despite Kevin Poulin's fine 30-save performance last night, if Rick DiPietro doesn't get the start for tonight's second of back-to-backs I'd read into it.
- Will Jack Capuano adjust the middle two lines? It was a topic of discussion in comments for the recap of last night's game here. I agree with those saying Josh Bailey looks a little too misused -- lost even -- out on the right side with RSH and Blake Comeau. Comeau's circuitous routes orbiting the zone aside, there is too much talent there not to have three lines making some hay.
- Bridgeport lost a penalty-heavy game last night. The parent and the farm are in sync.
- Mark Streit skated as did Milan Jurcina this morning. Both are nice to see, and Jurcina can't return soon enough. But every Streit rehab update just twists the knife in the wound that is knowing virtually the entire 2010-11 shall be played without the Islanders' #1 defenseman. I know I know -- it's an old topic, stop whining. But imagine if you had to play all of NHL '94 without Pierre Turgeon? (Insert Don Maloney joke here.)
- Another push to the momentum behind Doug Weight-will-stay-as-employee rumors.
- Wayne Gretzky may be 50 today, but Billy Smith still has him beat: He turned 60 last month.
No FIG winner yesterday, but we'll restart the engine on those picks today. If you're playing, leave your pick as a reply to the first FIG comment please.
Anyway, tonight represents the final hurdle before the All-Star Break. I'm ready. We'll have some good mid-season content around here through the weekend, as well as some of the funny. And probably, we won't have to talk about...well I won't mention his name, but have you ever read "Lolita"?