The New York Islanders entered the Ides of March, lost, and now find themselves in 15th place -- last in the Eastern Conference. Their opponent tonight meets them for the second of a back-to-back, an epic battle for bragging rights in the conference cellar.
This is a battle so tight, Montreal's overtime loss to Ottawa last night is currently the difference.
Find all sorts of resources about Montreal's loss to the Senators at
Habs Hockey Inside/Out, where they cover a hockey team that plays in Montreal. (It's the team with the "C" and the "H" on the jersey. But don't tell nobody.) Scott Gomez is a useful player (shhhh...) who is tremendously overpaid, and now he's a concussed player thanks to Tyler Myers' bone-headed hit from behind.
As for tonight, the Islanders have a couple of lineup changes.
First off, the lines, per the Islanders:
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Davidl Ullstrom
Nino Niederreiter - Marty Reasoner - Matt Martin
Jay Pandolfo is the scratch there, which is rough timing after he was nominated by Isles beatwriter(s?) for the Masterton award. See him talk about it here. (The nomination, not the scratch.)
Jack Capuano spoke to Newsday's Kimberly Martin about line shuffling down the stretch, with Martin reporting:
Capuano, who has been pleased with the line of Michael Grabner, Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom, said he will continue to shift around rookie Nino Niederreiter and others. "But," he clarified, "I don't think, as far as our maybe top six, seven forwards, you're going to see too much of that."
On defense, Steve Staios remains out (officially: upper body injury), but the big news is Al Montoya reappears behind that defense.
The Islanders begin this string of road games winless in their last five, though of course the OT and shootout losses soften that a bit. The fact three of the losses (regulation and otherwise) came after holding third-period leads does not.
Elsewhere in the Pipeline
- New signee Mike Halmo got the suspension bomb dropped on him by the OHL for that hit on Nail Yakupov. Ten games.
- The Sound Tigers dropped another -- poorly timed penalties -- last night and find themselves in a battle as the shine has worn off the incredible start to 2012.
- Brock Nelson and North Dakota advance to the WCHA final after an incredible comeback from a 3-0 deficit that had my Minnesota buddy drunk-texting me in horror. In the final, they will indeed face Scott Mayfield's Denver, who beat Minnesota-Duluth in double-OT yesterday. (No sweat. Just Denver's third straight OT win.) That matchup is at 7 p.m. Central tonight.
- If you're in a prospecting kind of mood, we took a look at THN's Top 10 list (Isles-specific) from their recent Future Watch edition.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's Islanders-Montreal game in this thread.