The New York Islanders close a road trip tonight as the Anaheim Ducks prepare to embark on one. The Isles seek to turn this into a winning three-game swing through California (they're 1-1 so far), while Anaheim closes a three-game homestand with a stretch of earning points in six consecutive games.
Aspirations, exasperations. Neither of these teams is where they were last year nor where they hoped to be now. But the Ducks can take solace in a 4-0-2 run after their dreadful start to the season. The Isles...? They just want to see what they see as recent good work converted into good results.
Note: See Dan's sort of guest post at Battle of Cali, who shares our core value of laziness.
In net, it will be former Bruin/Hurricane Anton Khudobin for Anaheim, and we suspect -- but haven't heard -- Thomas Greiss for the Isles after Jaroslav Halak played last night. While Jack Capuano is loathe to talk about the goaltending unless it's going good, Bruce Boudreau pulls no punches about Khudobin:
"When he's on he's quick, he's tracking the puck everywhere, he's square to the puck, he plays bigger than he looks," Boudreau said. "And that's when he's good. When he's not it looks like there's holes all over the place."
(Note that the last part of that quote was "edited" out of the preview on the official Ducks site. Public relations!)
UPDATE: Adam Pelech will get his NHL debut, in for Marek Zidlicky.
Capuano, who has ripped and scratched areas of his lineup for poor performances this season, has taken the encouraging father approach after the last few games:
"As a coach all you can do is try to play structured hockey and I think the guys are giving us what they've got," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Thursday. "We did hit a couple posts, gave up a power-play goal-against and didn't score a power-play goal tonight. That's kind of been the theme over the past couple weeks. We just need to improve on certain areas."
The Isles, too, believe they are playing better lately even if results have not improved. But as much-discussed in the aftermath of last night's 2-1 loss in Los Angeles, fat, drunk and fourth place in the Metro is no ambition for life, son.
Facing a long flight after this one, the Isles would enjoy a much livelier trip home if they absolutely unloaded on the Ducks tonight.
Leave your First Island Goal picks for tonight here. You have until 10 p.m. EST.