Since a nightmarish pair of shutout losses to the East favorite Penguins and Bruins by a combined 11-0 score, the Islanders have embarked on a 4-1-3 run of mostly nail-biter games. Frustration and injuries has led to several roster moves since then, not the least of which was the waiving of Blake Comeau, whose last game was a 6:45 4th-line clock-puncher against the Flyers (a 4-3 OT loss) immediately after the Pens game.
Jack Capuano sure sounds like he likes the lineup now:
"There is a different look with our team right now, different lineup ... I think over the last couple weeks we’ve turned the corner on some things. We must maintain our focus and make sure that we do the right things at the right times."
What exactly is the different look though? Comeau's departure and David Ullstrom's presence is one; in Comeau's Final Game as an Islander, Ullstrom also had a modest 7:53, but he's skated over 10 minutes most nights since, without the benefit of special teams play. Micheal Haley of course was called up, though he's played little. Mark Eaton is hurt (add Andrew MacDonald to the injury list, and in steps Dylan Reese) and Jay Pandolfo went down with a broken foot. Nino Niederreiter re-entered and then re-departed with a concussion.
Oh, and this: Al Montoya has started six of the last seven games, relieving Rick DiPietro in the other and preserving the win.
Newsday's pre-game also covers the changes since the last Isles-Pens meeting.
This is already the fourth meeting for these two teams. After going 2-2-2 against the Penguins last season, the Isles are 0-2-1 so far, including two shutouts by Marc-Andre Fleury. To feel like this run is progress rather than just a blip, you'd think the Islanders would need at minimum to replicate the shootout loss and certainly avoid the disaster of the last meeting.
Tonight the Penguins also look very different from that 5-0 beating, only because the One-Man Versus show known as Sidney Crosby is sitting this one out with non-specified but cautious injury concern. [Update, and to be fair: Jordan Staal is also out tonight, joining Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek.] The Penguins lost 3-2 in the first game of this Crosby mini-hiatus, but that was at the hands of the Flyers.
Evgeni Nabokov skated again yesterday.
As of last night, Bit Kevin Poulin is still up as the backup (leaving Bridgeport a little short, but they didn't play last night). The other injuries remain the same.
Mid-morning update: Al Montoya starts again. The lineup is the same as Thursday.
Fun with Quotes
In this game you need to get shots on net, so it's probably slightly unfair to harp on the much-piled on "cap mule" Brian Rolston for his misses when he had seven shots last game. (Still, those misses were the lightning rod for our frustration with the 5-on-3.) But in that context, the official game preview gave me a chuckle because of the almost circumscribed praise in Jack Capuano's quote -- at least looked at in a cynic's context:
Rolston played a smart game and led the team with seven shots on goal, including more than a few snipers that went just a bit wide of the net during the Isles power play.
"Brian is definitely a guy that has a tremendous shot," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. "He can get pucks to the net, there’s no question."
LHH is definitely a blog about the Islanders. It can post a lot of words about the Islanders, there's no question.
In truth, if I recall there was more to Capuano's responses, and quotes are always spliced for time and space. Capuano handled the post-game questions about the wide shots like he really does believe in the veteran -- and he certainly deploys him like he believes in him -- so any faint praise there is probably wishful thinking among fans who feel they've seen enough of the ex-Devil.
Credit On the Forecheck for a wonderful bit of SEO-style capitalizing on hot topics ("Albert Pujols" in a hockey article?) as well as a really good assessment of the Ryan Suter situation the Predators face. I'm sure many Isles fans have Suter in their dreams. It simply can't happen via trade and surely won't happen on the open market, but if he hits that market it's at least worth putting a call in. Just not an Arte Moreno-level call.
Jim Rutherford says he "should've known better" than to do that Kaberle contract. You think?
Leave your First Islanders Goal (FIG) picks for tonight's game in this thread. We have six members with 10 or more points so far -- but remember, you just have to take it one game at a time, and breathe through your eyelids.
P.S. I forgot, tonight is a third-jersey night.