The New York Islanders complete their brief New Year homestand tonight against the Stars before heading out on a six-game trip that ranges from Canada, to rematches with Dallas and Colorado, a Florida swing and a finish in Philadelphia. Any of those locales have plentiful hardware stores from which to retrieve the final nail for this season's coffin.
A win tonight against the Stars would at least salvage the good vibes the team generated for itself over the New Year, marked by regulation wins over Detroit and Boston (and a comeback win in Minnesota), as well as an overtime win over Chicago.
Of course, their lone three-game win streak of the season's first first half was stopped by the annoying Carolina Hurricanes, who capitalized on Islanders mistakes to win yet another over the Isles.
Colin McDonald's quote before that loss was too familiar, and prophetic:
"I think there were times when we were going through that losing streak, where it could have been just one bad mistake and it cost us," Colin McDonald said prior to Saturday night’s loss. "It was very frustrating cause there were times … we were playing pretty well and we couldn’t find a way to get the win. Now we’re finding ways to get the win."
Heh, mistakes. On that note...
Matt Donovan will be back in the lineup tonight for the first time since his recall, and he told Arthur Staple:
"I think I was afraid of making a mistake," he said. "You can't play that way or you will make mistakes. I think I learned my lesson."
The hero of the win over the Hawks, snubbed non-Olympian Kyle Okposo, is questionable tonight due to the pending birth of his child.
With that, one way or another, Josh Bailey is back in the lineup, out initially from injury but last game because of the old "don't change a winning lineup" thing. Jack Capuano on Bailey:
I need to see the work ethic, the grit and determination in his game. I need to see a guy that’ll get more pucks to the net. He’s a minute-cruncher for us. We expect all our guys to play well defensively away from the puck, but he has to be a guy who gets pucks to the net, no question.
As for the Stars, they are fortunate in that their key Slavic blueliner's concussion only put him out six games: Sergei Gonchar returns tonight. (Alas, Lubomir Visnovsky's concussion issue has entered its third month.)
The Stars are coming off a couple of losses in which they bled goals against, so Gonchar's -- and possibly Trevor Daley's -- return to the blueline will be welcome.
Last time these teams met, Mark Fistric concussed Nino Niederreiter, earning a three-game suspension for the hit and putting Nino on the shelf right after he scored his lone goal of 2011-12. Both players are someone else's property now.
Radio Play-by-Play Note
If you ever listen to Bridgeport games or check out their highlights on YouTube, you'll know the voice of Phil Giubileo. He will be filling in tonight on the Islanders game for Chris King, so give that a listen.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's match over here.