As Mile High Hockey put it, many expected the roles to be reversed in tonight's encounter between the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche. After 10 games the Avs are at the bottom of their division; nine games in, the Isles are at the top of theirs.
For Colorado, let's just blame the P.A. Parenteau hangover. The man they curiously acquired for Parenteau over the summer, Daniel Briere, is slated to be a healthy scratch tonight. That didn't take long.
For more Parenteau-connected irony, though the Isles now have Kyle Okposo to the right of John Tavares where Parenteau once played, they are still trying to find the ideal winger to complete that line. Matt Moulson famously begat an exciting but unfulfilling Thomas Vanek experiment. When Vanek was hurt, Brock Nelson offered promise, but The Reverend is just so darn useful at center that the Isles haven't gone back to that.
So the Isles currently have that slot filled by Cory Conacher, whose puck luck has been elusive save for the gaping net he had for his only goal thus far.
Parenteau has five points in 10 games over in Montreal, currently in the third year of a four-year contract he signed with Colorado to leave Long Island. Conflicting reports had two teams (including the Islanders) offer similar deals, but Parenteau selected Colorado for their up-and-coming nature. They won the tough Central Division last year. Then they traded him. For fumes. To the team that's currently first in the league.
- But oh right, tonight isn't about Parenteau. It's about a team that is quickly falling behind a difficult pack, against a team that probably needs to bank these points before trying to climb California Hill.
- Semyon Varlamov is putting up good numbers yet again, and is in goal for the Avalanche.
- The Isles will go with Chad Johnson, which you can see in two different ways: Doing the "win and you're in, lose and you're out" thing, or preserving Jaroslav Halak for two of the tougher opponents on this trip. Either way, goalies are voodoo. [UPDATE: Staple has the answer, plus other notes, after talking with the coach.]
- Lineup is otherwise the same, as Travis Hamonic is still out. But Staple thinks he might be back for San Jose.
- Jack Capuano said the team needs to figure out its puck management ills to survive this trip. John Tavares notes they better control what they can control: "We need to worry about the way we need to play because there are a lot of things we can’t control. You’re in a different environment, an uncomfortable environment and you have to play a smart road game and not give the other team momentum or the crowd energy."
- On lines: The Islanders middle six scored six of the seven Islanders goals against the Dallas Stars on Saturday and generated the Islanders only even strength goal Tuesday. "Line combinations are something we don’t want to change too much because we have some pretty good chemistry right now," Capuano said.
- The Colorado penalty kill ranks fourth, their powerplay only 22nd. But we saw that didn't matter the last time the Isles faced the Central Division's last-place team.
Here's how Mile High Hockey has the updated lines:
O'Reilly - Duchene - Landeskog
McGinn - MacKinnon - Iginla
Tanguay - Mitchell -Everberg
Hejda - Johnson
Stuart - Holden
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here. Don't pick Hamonic.