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Gameday: New York Islanders vs. Boston Bruins, as Tim Thomas faces his

Carrying a 2-7-0 home record, the Islanders face their toughest opponent of a seven-game homestand.

Move along, nothing more to see here.
Move along, nothing more to see here.
Jared Wickerham

In the alternate universe where there is no cap and floor range, this would be goaltender Tim Thomas' first game against his old club.

Okay, no it wouldn't, because the Thomas trade was a paper move that wouldn't have happened in that alternate universe. And in any universe Thomas simply would not be playing regardless, unless there was some universe where NHL players had to play because they needed the money.

Instead, in the universe as we know it, the Boston Bruins come to town making a collective $62 million, give or take some bonuses, which is why it was so important they shed Tim Thomas' paper-only commitment and make room for essential signings like ... Jay Pandolfo.

Nyi-yslim_medium Bos-slim_medium
Islanders (8-10-1, 13th/E,) vs. Bruins (11-2-2, 4th/E)
7:30 p.m. EST | NBC Sports Net | Audio:
[gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Home of Hahd, Smaht Hahckey:
Stanley Cup of Chowder

The Bruins represent the toughest opponent the Islanders will face on this seven-game homestand, which means there is a really good chance the Isles open this key stretch of the season 0-2 and drop their record at Nassau Coliseum to 2-8-0.

I'm not saying I want that, but I am saying if they lose tonight without stinking up the joint, this probably isn't the right evening for fans to lose their collective minds.

It's also not the evening for Jack Capuano to say they lost because they didn't play hard or smart enough.

The Bruins have earned the most points per game in the Eastern Conference. They are outshooting teams by nearly five shots per game (31.8 to 27). Their "Fenwick Close" -- a proxy for 5-on-5 puck possession when the stakes are up for grabs in a game -- is among the league's best. (The Isles, at 49.94, are middle of the pack.) And as you surely know, the Bruins are a deep team with a Norris winner and a blue chipper on the blueline and, well, it doesn't really matter that the Isles took their Vezina winner off their hands.

And despite the obligatory Pandolfo quip above, the Bruins have $8 million in cap space and have the ways and means to use it to get even better. Who knows, maybe they'll even eye some Islanders as the season flips toward trade deadline madness.

This is the Isles and Bruins' second meeting of the season, with the Isles losing 4-2 (all even strength goals) in Boston on Jan. 25. Matt Carkner fought Milan Lucic in that game, which took place back when Keith Aucoin was scoring.

After completing a stretch of five games in seven days, the Islanders were off yesterday. So look for lineup hints from this morning's skate. Surely Evgeni Nabokov starts. If the majority of fans have their way, David Ullstrom will reappear after a week in the doghouse and after Jack Capuano suggested the loss to the Hurricanes was marked by passengers.

[UPDATE: Indeed. Ullström is in, Aucoin is out. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey line up with Frans Nielsen, Marty Reasoner centers Michael Grabner and Ullström.]

But who knows anymore? The oddly constructed lines below the Tavares line have been dry. The Isles' vaunted powerplay is facing the league's most successful penalty kill (a ridiculous 94.8% through 15 games). We will watch to see what gives, because hockey: It has its hooks in us.

Don't forget: This one's on NBC Sports. 7:30 start.

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Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread. Remember it's a 7:30 start on the Network Formerly Known as Versus, so you have a little more time than usual.