The activated Michael Grabner from injured reserve, but defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is the one who makes room for him. Visnovsky is now on IR retroactive to Sunday (Jan. 4), so one of the Isles defensive pairings that has been key to their success -- though also a culprit on a couple of gaffes Sunday -- is now broken.
The speedy Grabner is returning from his second IR stint of the season, thanks to the preseason injury that ultimately required abdominal surgery. During his brief five-game return, he picked up two goals -- and he might pick up plenty more if he gets a look on the first line, as things appeared in the morning skate.
Islanders (26-12-1, t-1st/Metro) @ Canucks (22-12-3, t-2nd/Pacific)
10 p.m. EST | MSG+ | WRHU/WRCN
[General Roger's Place and Arena Emporium]
Black and yellow and red and blue and green: Nucks Misconduct
From Arthur Staple of Newsday, the morning skate lines had Grabner in Josh Bailey's recent spot on left wing, with Bailey not even on the ice (and afterward, confirmed Bailey is out tonight and day-to-day):
Grabner - Tavares - Okposo
Grabovski - Nelson - Kulemin
Lee - Nielsen - Strome
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Of greater significance is who and how Visnovsky is replaced in the lineup. Matt Donovan is the man, set to make just his ninth appearance of the season.
Backing them all up will be Jaroslav Halak, who is in goal again after going 18-3 over his last 21 starts.
Many thought the Canucks, minus the malcontent Ryan Kesler, would be due an implosive rebuild this season. Instead, under new coach Willie "Who TF Would Want to Coach the Penguins?" Desjardins they have started strong and remained steady, to the point that they are certainly one of the top four teams in the Pacific and in good position for a playoff spot in the West.
Seriously: They've lost more than one game in a row on only two occasions, a two-game skid in October and a five-game losing streak in December. Their special teams have both been good (21.0 and 87.2), which has helped support their middle-of-the-road performance at even strength.
That said, in hockey's eternal search for "balanced" and "secondary" scoring, Desjardins has given the Sedin twins a "new" linemate for basically the first time all season: Free agent acquisition Radim Vrbata has been dropped to the second line, while Alex Burrows reunites with the Sedins. The Isles will have to handle with care that old familiar Sedin cycling magic.
Eddie Lack will spell Ryan Miller in goal. Lack will want to avenge, or erase from memory, that epic record-breaking third period when the Isles visited last March:
No Bailey to start the comeback this time, but talisman Jiggs McDonald is again in the booth.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks right this way. You can even choose Grabner!