The Islanders good play in 2012 has put the thought of playoffs in many fans' heads. But their opponent tonight may be a good reminder of how hard achieving that goal will actually be.
The Isles enter tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes 8 points behind the Maple Leafs for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. The Hurricanes enter tonight's game 9 points out of that same playoff spot, while also finding themselves dead last in the Eastern Conference.
After realizing the Islanders are 8 times closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference than they are to the postseason, one may start to say the word playoffs in a more Jim Mora like tone. You may sour even more on the idea when you notice that every team that would be out in the East if the playoffs started today, have been playing just as good of hockey as the Islanders have been over the past month. That's the kind of situation that makes it hard for any team to leapfrog anyone else.
But as the great Maven, Stan Fischler put it:
Islanders home on Saturday and...the Isles trick still is to get above .500.
If the Islanders can do that, the season will be deemed a success. If they can accomplish that goal, then by the end of the season...hey, you never know. These two points are important to both teams. They would help them both inch closer to a playoff spot, as well as keeping both out of the conference cellar.
Apparently Steve Staios and Evgeni Nabokov do not buy their cold remedies from the same pharmacy. Staios has recovered enough from his bout with the flu that he will be in the lineup tonight, replacing Ty Wishart.
Nabokov on the other hand has not, and after a shaky outing in St. Louis, Al Montoya will be relegated to the backup role tonight, with Kevin Poulin getting the start.
Poulin's last start for the Islanders was a successful one, returning from the All-Star break to shut down these same Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-2 Isles victory.
Despite the Islanders recent good play, they have dropped 4 out of their last 5 at home, although 2 of those were in overtime. With 3 of the next 4 at home preceding a big 4 game road trip, its important for the Islanders to grab as many points on home ice as they can if they have any ideas of making the playoffs.
After getting Friday off, Cam Ward will be back in goal for the Hurricanes, which should be no surprise for the Islanders, being Ward has started every game against them this season. The good news, though? The Isles have won all three of those games.
Tuomo Ruutu remains out for the Hurricanes with the infamous upper-body injury, and most likely won't return until March. Add Chad LaRose being out because of the "same" injury, and the Islanders will have the good fortune of facing the Hurricanes without 2 of their top 6 goal scorers.
Rookie defenseman Jiri Tlusty is on a 6 game point scoring streak, while team captain Eric Staal has points in 4 in a row. Staal should get a healthy dose of attention from the Islanders top d-men, especially with Ruutu out of the lineup.
Leave your choice of Tavares, Moulson or Parenteau ( or anyone else if you're a gambling man) in this thread here.
Hypocritically Laughable Quote of the Day
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller on a reason for his team's recent success:
I love the fact that they're willing to try new things.
Funny, I don't recall you having that attitude 17 years ago when you were traded to the Island. We still remember, Kirk. We still remember.