Mikhail Grabovski is this close to returning from a concussion suffered via the brute existence of John Scott. [UPDATE: Confirmed, Grabovski is cleared and coming off IR.] Tonight makes an excellent time, as the Dallas Stars offer a dangerous top six and the Islanders' top defensive line just lost its regular left wing.
Josh Bailey is out with a broken hand, but Grabovski could slot in there on Frans Nielsen's left wing. Add the versatile Nikolai Kulemin and you have a trio that fears no EA Sports line -- and in fact gobbles up such challenges.
The Stars added a key piece of high-end depth over the summer by acquiring Jason Spezza, but lately they've been using him in a "super line" up top with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. While a Western road trip looms next week, tonight at home the Isles should have the luxury of trying to match that line as much as possible.
Stars (4-1-2) @ Islanders (5-2-0)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+ | WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Go West till you smell it, click till you read it all: Defending Big D
Last season, in the pre-Spezza era, this was a fun meeting for the Isles: John Tavares scored a hat trick at home, while the team charged to a third-period comeback win in Dallas.
Tonight's lineup scenario, in brief, from morning skate reports:
Capuano: Grabovski likely to start w/Nielsen and Kulemin, Conacher starts with Tavares and Okposo. Johnson in goal. #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 25, 2014
Travis Hamonic is still held out, so the Islanders' ideal unit of six D has still yet to see the ice together. Depth is nice.
Chad Johnson, the theoretical backup, is coming off a win against his former team in Boston. Further, despite the 5-2 record, that was just the second game this season where the Isles had conceded fewer than three non-empty-net goals.
For that last figure, the Islanders' still-last penalty kill (68.8%) looms large. The Stars power play, meanwhile, ranks 7th with a 26.1% efficiency rate so far.
At the other end, after the Stars won via shootout circus last night in Newark, Anders Lindback is expected to start in goal.
A rested Islanders team against a traveling team that played last night? Dan summed it up succinctly in the morning bits:
We've seen this scenario before. If this is indeed a "new" Islanders team, we must hope that they will be the ones who look like they slept in their own beds for the last two nights and not the Stars.
Let's drop the puck and see who shows up.
First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game can be filed here. Don't pick Bailey.