Though the New York Islanders took their last meeting* just two weeks ago -- their last win, in fact -- the Detroit Red Wings arrive with the teams headed in opposite directions. Even while missing Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, the Wings are coming off a 6-1 demolition of the Boston Bruins, another good team the Isles have beaten this season.
*Okay, it was via shootout, continuing a bizarre string of standings victories over Detroit that spans seasons, lockouts and coaches.
Detroit's 31 points are good for third place in the Atlantic (remember, that's not our division but rather the division that stole our equally generic name), three points behind the Bruins for the Eastern Conference lead. The Isles' 19 points leave them last in the Metro and tied for second-last in the conference, though thankfully their playoff targets are more reachable Metro teams.
None of these targets nor context matter unless the Isles find a way to collect points again. Seems we've been repeating that for a while.
Red Wings (12-7-7, 3rd/Atlantic) @ Islanders (8-14-3, 8th/Metro)
4 p.m. | MSG+ | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Will be "Atlantic" in 2150': Winging it in Motown
Don't forget: Odd 4 p.m. start today. Hope you bought something or saved money, or some other such gratuitous consumer behavior. Now watch this branded hockey product!
The Isles move of intrigue is that Calvin de Haan was recalled to replace Matt Donovan, who has been returned to Bridgeport after starting the season with the team and playing 22 games. The good news is de Haan might yet be good! The bad news is Donovan wasn't actually bad. So, potentially lateral move here.
Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner had quiet games against Winnipeg, when they were lined up with Frans Nielsen until being bumped after two periods. We'll see if today's scratchwagon rounds up any new victims, er passengers.
As noted, the Wings will be without Datsyuk and Bertuzzi, as well as bright young defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who made his presence felt in the last meeting. Not that these absences hindered their efforts against Boston any.
Jimmy Howard is set to start for Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson started the last meeting (and was quite good, actually). That game was also where Evgeni Nabokov left injured on the first shot.
The Wings recently extended defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for six years at a cap hit of $4.25 million, an interesting case for the Islanders if they look outside to upgrade their blueline, but also for Ericsson's late-blooming arc. A converted forward, Ericsson did not always look like the type of defenseman who could be called "top four," and now at age 29 he is set well into his 30s. Obviously an exception rather than the rule, but a nice example where occasionally players can get better and prove themselves worthy in the latter half of their 20s.
One player who has disappointed thus far: Stephen Weiss, signed to a big free agent deal over the summer and expected to provide a formidable second center for the Wings. He's been demoted to the third line lately.
Another disappointment, and a guy whose time is wearing thin, is Dan(ny)(iel) Cleary, who did vote for signing with Philadelphia before he voted against it. As Winging it in Motown puts it:
Cleary reportedly turned down a much better offer from Philadelphia to "follow his heart" and return to the Wings, where Mike Babcock wanted him back for his veteran presence and great attitude. The reality of the situation is that when Cleary signed with the Wings, he signed for a chance to compete for his spot. Based on his play so far this season, he is losing that competition to better options in guys like Abdelkader, Bertuzzi, Miller, Nyquist, and Tatar.
The Wings, they have their own issues. But my those issues look enviable from here. The two teams have almost identical shot records, but the Wings special teams have been considerably better. As has, yes, their goaltending.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game over here. Standings will be updated again after the weekend.