After a few minor adjustments at the trade deadline, the New York Islanders have their playoff-bound roster set (minus some key forward injuries) and take it on the road, with the first stop in Texas to see the Dallas Stars.
Tyler Kennedy's acquisition bumps AHL recall Kael Mouillierat from the lineup. Combined with Casey Cizikas' continued IR stint (he skated the other day though), it also makes for an interesting mix of balanced lines.
Those lines, at least to start:
Lee - Tavares - Bailey
Grabner - Nielsen - Kennedy
Kulemin - Strome - Clutterbuck
Martin - Nelson - McDonald
On defense, Lubomir Visnovsky is back in for Brian Strait.
For Kennedy, who was dealt out of Pittsburgh after a diminishing role and joined a Sharks team in a weird state of limbo, this trade is a new lease on life. It's about time new players can say this with a straight face again:
When you look at the Islanders, they out skate teams, out work teams and that’s why they are successful. Whenever you play the Islanders you have to be ready to work hard and skate because they have a young, fast team.
It seems like the organization has really turned it around in the last two or three years.
Also from Kennedy, asked about his old team and Isles foe, the Penguins, via Arthur Staple of Newsday:
"You always want to beat your old team, and we have the team here to do that."
And alright, one more:
Newest #Isles Neuvirth and Kennedy on the ice. On his way out to rink, Kennedy says: "How do I look, boys? Like a million bucks!"— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 3, 2015
I think he's happy.
Meanwhile, though we hope not to see Michal Neuvirth in action tonight (because Jaroslav Halak is starting), he too has a new lease after, well, combat pay in Buffalo:
I was facing a lot of shots and a lot of good scoring chances every game. It was a great experience. I’m happy that I ended up here with a great team.
Check Defending Big D for Stars info, including a possible return of Patrik Nemeth after a scary wrist laceration last October.
The Stars got the much-coveted 1-2 center punch they desired with the summer acquisition of Jason Spezza, but their defense and goaltending has not held up its end of the bargain this season, and the Tyler Seguin injury after Dmitri Kulikov low-bridged him probably sealed their fate this season. Seguin remains out, but could be skating soon.
They've dropped to last place in the Central Division, four teams and nine points from a wild card spot. GM Jim Nill thus wasn't looking for any short-term gains at the trade deadline, the only notable move being the sale of 36-year-old Erik Cole to Detroit.
The Stars are starting Kari Lehtonen in goal. They've won only 12 of 33 games at home, but...they score lots of goals and give up lots of goals. (You might remember the other leg of this series, back in October, finished in a 7-5 Islanders win.) Tonight could be fun.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. Don't choose Neuvirth.