The New York Islanders host the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time in Brooklyn, which means it's also the first time they say former 34-goal man and lethal penalty killer Michael Grabner in a foreign uniform. He has four goals, four assists, and 67 speeding tickets in 31 games this season.
Grabner was reflective about facing his old team -- though not his old building -- but of course acknowledged business is business, and it's time to get down to it.
Tavares on Grabner matchup: I’m happy to see him doing well but it will definitely be intense out there. I’m sure we will share some jokes"— Owen O'Brien (@owenobri) December 27, 2015
The Islanders business includes some roster moves: The extended layoff did Kyle Okposo well, and he's back in the lineup after missing the final two games before the break. But the layoff did not cure what ails Jaroslav Halak; he's on IR retroactive to last week. Chris Gibson, part of the parts platter acquired from the Leafs in the Grabner deal, gets the recall after putting up sterling numbers in Bridgeport.
Okposo has been known for a few things in his career: Scoring splurges like the one that's put him as the team's leading scorer in the first half this season; injuries that have a way of interrupting those streaks; and sometimes slow "refinding his groove" after recovering from those injuries. As he said via the official site:
"Everybody needed [the break] and for me it was especially good timing," Okposo said. "Usually it takes me a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things, but shouldn’t take too long. Everybody is in the same boat, so I just missed four extra days, but it’ll be good to just get out there and get back in the game. Everybody might be a little bit rusty and after the first couple of shifts it should be alright."
Here's to hoping he's fully recovered, and not carrying too much injury rust.
The Leafs are expected to start Jonathan Bernier, though James Reimer is back from injury and might get the next game.
This is the teams' first meeting of the season, and it comes as part of a home-and-home that continues Tuesday in Toronto, future NHL home of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and whichever other top pick comes along and should really want to leave his drafting club to sign with a real NHL organization.
Regulars: Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here. Get them in by 6 p.m. EST. It's okay to pick Okposo.
I'm still in holiday mode, so make this your preview and game thread hybrid, and just be glad I've remembered there's a game for which to thread.