The New York Islanders are back in action tonight, with the key news being who won't play...and who will. Mikhail Grabovski misses his second game -- and another opportunity to show Randy Carlyle how he can help a team -- with concussion symptoms. At least Nikolay Kulemin can play some respects in his stead.
But the fresher news is on the back line, with a "ski" of a different variety. Lubomir Visnovsky is close to returing from injury, while Travis Hamonic is in doubt. Hamonic left practice in pain Monday and was questionable for tonight. If Visnovsky is ready to go, it could be simply slotting in for Hamonic while Grabovski goes on IR.
But true to form, Hamonic doesn't want to come out.
Hamonic: "I'm not a guy that looks for rest...I play every game like it's my last." #Isles— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) October 21, 2014
Visnovsky on the ice with scratches Donovan and Boulton, and tonight's backup G Chad Johnson. Hamonic sounded like he's in. #Isles— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) October 21, 2014
Officially, a decision on Hamonic vs. Visnovsky (or other) is to come later. And Grabovski skated, and is just day to day.
One thing for certain: Jaroslav Halak will start in goal.
The Leafs were a prominent topic all summer -- even more than usual -- and I'm sure you know the refrain by now: Fired Randy Carlyle's assistants (former Isles staffers, both of them), moved out some front office execs, moved in Brendan Shanahan and a blog-destroying analytics department.
Through six games, Toronto is once again being outshot, by about 3.4 shots per game, conceding almost 34 shots per game including a few overtime contests. They are coming off an OT loss to Detroit, part of a winless home-and-home with the Wings.
But their penalty kill is at least middle of the pack (86.4%), which is far far more than can be said of the unit spirited by their old assistant coach, Greg Cronin: The Isels' PK sits dead last with an unbelievable 58.8% on 17 tries through five games.
We Missed You, Viz
Visnovsky's quotes in the Post were delightfully Viz-ian:
"One game is better than 100 practices."
Visnovsky, 38, missed all but 24 games last season while suffering from what he guessed was his sixth concussion.
"I’m not young anymore, and I’m thinking about being healthy for the whole season is my [goal] for the season," Visnovsky said. "One bend move and the back [was injured]. It was frustrating because I felt very well before the season. This is the sport, hockey, you know — your body says ‘no’ when you can’t do anything."
"He's an elusive guy on the back end," coach Jack Capuano said of Visnovsky. "[He's] a little bit like Nick Leddy that he can bring the puck out, that can create some separation on the forecheck from the opposition. At the same time, he's an offensive guy that gets up in the play, he reads the rush really well. We're always looking for that. The games that we've played and the games that we've won this year, our defense has been heavily involved in the offense and we want to continue to do that with that defense-first mentality."
Meanwhile, yesterday featured another look at lines without Grabovski, including this middle six:
Conacher - Tavares - Okposo
Kulemin - Nelson - Clutterbuck
Bailey - Nielsen - Strome
Martin - Cizikas - McDonald
We'll see how it all shakes out for game time. Smart money's on the Leafs getting outshot.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over yonder.