Occasionally we must pause our methodical march through the regular season's regular rhythms to observe what's going on outside, in the bizarre "real" world that does not bring fans to and fro the edge of cliffs based on who is dressed as the New York Islanders fourth-line wing:
Parts of Connecticut got thirty-five inches of snow over the past 24 hours. For that reason, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers game tonight has been postponed -- your tickets, if you had them, are still good for another game this season.
However the NHL is a different beast and it plays its games as long as the players can be delivered to the site. The Islanders game tonight goes on. (This brief statement is reflective of the NHL reality.) Besides, Long Island only got two feet*. Pshh.
*My favorite detail in this story is how Ms. Jones was without food and water, only a bottle of Listerine next to her. I'm not sure how that detail gets included -- writer's choice or subject's odd survival tactic beliefs -- but either way, please don't include Listerine in your survival kit.
Islanders (4-5-1, t-10th/E) @ Sabres (4-6-1, t-10th/E)
7 p.m. | MSG+ | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau Snowdrift Coliseum
You Ott to Know: Die by the Blade
We've gone over likely Islanders lineup changes in the preceding days: Josh Bailey, injured in Germany during the lockout, is back and on the active roster. Lubomir Visnovsky, wandering like a puppy needing to be trained, also looks to make his season and Isles debut (with Joe Finley making way). Matt Carkner is on IR along with Radek Martinek, so at present there are no waiver issues with making room for the two additions.
Also, Tim Thomas is a scratch due to Bull Moose obligations.
Who are the Sabres?
More interestingly tonight, the Isles face a new opponent and one that is having a likewise disappointing start to the season. Both teams have nine points (the Isles have a game in hand), but Buffalo started with much higher expectations.
However, they are last in the league in faceoffs, are having trouble scoring outside of the Tomas Vanek line, their special teams have been below average, and their puck possession in close situations has been ... as weak as the Isles'.
Tonight pits two bottom-third opponents who rely on their top-heavy lines led by franchise stars.
Vanek leads the league in scoring entering tonight, and Cody Hodgson has reaped some of that with 5 goals and 5 assists so far. (Yes Hodgson, picked one slot behind Bailey in 2008, has 102 games under his belt now. Bailey is about to play his 292nd. Drafted by different teams entirely.)
Speaking of draft debates of yesteryear, struggling Tyler Myers is a healthy scratch tonight.
Ryan Miller has been the goalie of record for all four of the Sabres wins, but his save percentage has not been good (.902 overall, .905 at even strength).
Oh Look, It's Ott
It is impressive when your addition to a team allows Patrick Kaleta to keep his hand down when someone enters the room asking, "Who's the biggest weasel here?"
Seeking to add another bastard to the lineup, the Sabres acquired Steve Ott over the summer. Jarringly, he is wearing Derek Roy's old #9. (I'm being too traditional, but it still bugs me when players like that wear #7 or #9. I'm looking at you, Carkner.)
Ott is already being credited for doing the Agitator's Trademark: Being a tool on the ice, then taking advantage of the NHL's bizarre fight code and situational justice to goad a player into fighting (this time via an unpenalized late and low hit), only to turtle and take the powerplay instead. It's incredible to me that the NHL still enables this decades-old routine, but as long as it does there will be players like Ott all too happy to exploit it. (That said, Ryan White needs to know not to be an idiot there.)
For two teams that think they should be playing better -- but maybe don't have it in their capacity to do so -- tonight represents an excellent opportunity to grab some points against a team they think is worse. Game on. Whether on the roads or where Ott is aiming high or low (then Talboting), be careful out there.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here.