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New York Islanders vs. Edmonton Oilers: Battle of Infinite Rebuilds

A matchup of destiny.

"My president knows a little bit about winning, if there is ever a concern."
"My president knows a little bit about winning, if there is ever a concern."
Bruce Bennett

When forced into the captivity of an indefinitely fumbling team, one can either laugh at one's fate or rage against the establishment -- in hilariously ineffective channels like Twitter-bombing people, arranging petitions on message boards, or calling talk radio -- for having the nerve to be so frustrating as to make us question why we spend money and energy watching grown men in expensive uniforms play children's games.

Regular readers here know I prefer the former approach, or else I wouldn't have survived (or, if one is an optimist, I might be doing something productive).

So I can think of no better tonic than tonight's matchup to make light of the trade deadline's heartbreak -- which I still maintain wasn't a disaster in itself (factoring in the MacDonald trade), but rather the final grenade launched into a seasonlong disaster which unfolded before our eyes, month by month, like some such 2008-09.

Islanders (24-32-8, 8th/Metro) @ Oilers (21-34-8, 7th/Pacific)
the other] Coliseum
9:30 p.m. EST | MSG+ | WRHU
Groundhog Day West:
Copper & Blue

Tonight we see the battle of infinite rebuilds, the burned out shells of a 1980s dynasty and the quasi-dynasty that succeeded it. Orange and blue with occasional departures for Reebok come lately. The two sides of Ryan Smith, the nine lives of Jesse Joensuu, the silverback years of Dwayne Roloson. Literal coliseums as metaphors for empires past.

Alas, we won't see John Tavares, but Edmonton fields its trio of top picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov. And also Joensuu.

It is those three names (not the Finn Named Jesse) that often has people praising how Edmonton's infinite rebuild is ahead of the Islanders'. I disagree with that evaluation and regardless prefer the Islanders' lot. But I'd sure like to have one of their goalies.

Lineup Notes

On that note, Evgeni Nabokov gets the start tonight. Garth Snow said so much in so little during post-deadline interviews looking back on the season, including:

Nabokov has been a terrific goalie in this league and with us. He has been a solid goalie. We ran into trouble when he got injured. Between Nabby being injured and Lubomir [Visnovsky] being out, it put players into roles that they probably weren’t ready for.

Yes, no, at times, yes, yes, and that is exactly what they needed to prepare for. The injuries hurt, but they shouldn't have expected even a repeat of last year from Nabokov. The shuffle was done up front -- and yet both Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard were soon jettisoned -- while the void was and continues to be in the back end.

But we've been over that, and over that, and over that.

Jack Capuano on Matt Donovan:

The last time that Matt was up he played real well. The first time we sent him down there were some things he needed to work on – some deficiencies in his game – but he corrected them, he came back and he played extremely well for us. I want to see him do the same thing.

Except perhaps for Capuano, who could be a lame duck because the coach is always the next to go, tonight is just a meaningless game between two frequent lottery dwellers. The Oilers again bring up the rear in the West, the Islanders are propped up by Buffalo and Florida in the East.

So the game means nothing, but lots of young talent will be on display, including Matt Donovan and Mike Halmo returning to join fellow rookies Calvin de Haan, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee.

It's March, so it must be time to channel our entertainment focus that way.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here. They give up a lot of goals -- the most, in fact -- but at least they usually score their share too.