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Islanders Gameday: As the goalies turn, for Spezza's return

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So the Isles need a goalie then. Or at least one to work the bench and wear a hat. Mikko Koskinen got the start in Bridgeport's 3-2 loss last night -- Fornabaio reported he made some saves, and got a kick in the face, too -- while "Jackalope" Joel Martin got the backup role and the new two-way deal. The Sound Tigers, 1-10-2-1 since Jan. 1, also host Springfield tonight.

And you know about Rick DiPietro (face, knee) and Nathan Lawson (MCL) being on IR, Dwayne Roloson (2nd life) being on TB, and Evgeni Nabokov (petulance) being unavailable. Some warm body will back up Kevin Poulin. (You know which ex-Senator is looking for work?) Update your fellow reader in comments as news warrants. Or in a FanShot, if big news warrants.

Ott-slow_medium               Lh-top_medium
Senators (17-27-8, 13th/E) @ Islanders (16-28-7, 15th/E)
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. | MSG+, CBC | audio -
WRHU 88.7
I've seen that team's logo in the "personal items" aisle:
Silver Seven

The Senators have had a terrible time since the injury to Jason Spezza, who returns today. Their lone win in 15 games during that stretch was an Islanders low point: A Sens victory with a misleadingly close 6-4 final score. Yes, that was without Spezza, who merely notched a goal and three assists last time he faced the Isles.

Stakes, Such as They Are: With an OT loss last night to the Panthers, New Jersey inched a standings point ahead of the Isles, who have a game in hand. That also puts the Devils just two points behind the Senators. The Oilers lost to the Blues, so Edmonton retains sole possession of the Larsson Lottery Lead.

Another h/t link from Silver Seven: Alex Kovalev isn't a big fan of Cory Clouston. Clouston, of course, is probably a dead man walking. So from the recent spate of "young/new hot" minor coaches to be introduced into the league, I count Scott Gordon, John Anderson and eventually Clouston as casualties. Dan Bylsma is obviously a success, and his buddy Davis Payne probably will be (his Blues team has been rattled by major injuries). Peter DeBoer, the jury's still out. Guy Boucher is doing quite well, although he has a roster with which to do it. Todd McLellan likewise, although you never know when patience runs out in San Jose. John MacLean, if he counts in this group, never had a chance.

So basically: Coaches handed good rosters have a fighting chance. Other coaches really don't. And coaches who have run-ins with their players ... usually have bad rosters already.

Official NYI Site Stuff: You probably heard tickets are now 25% off face. And you probably know that Radek Martinek is a quiet, valued influence, but it's the stuff of a decent story anyway. (I can imagine the Czech-Slovak humor in Martinek and Jurcina's room on the road.)

The Challenge: Well, two post-break games, and the Islanders looked quite nice compiling goals against a lethargic Atlanta team, then were blanked by a hard-working but Crosby/Malkin-less Penguins team the next night. If they can't bring it in full force tonight, on a home Saturday, then they don't deserve the backhanded glamor of the lottery race. But I think they'll show up.

By the team stats, these teams have similar goals against, similar powerplay rates -- and the Isles PK and GF rate are actually higher.

FIGs

If you're new(ish) here, we do First Islanders Goal (FIG) picks. People pick the player who will score the goal, and a time (for a tiebreaker, since each player receives multiple votes). If you've never done it but want to, just enter your pick AS A REPLY TO the first comment you see that mentions the FIG. That's all.