If all you wanted for Christmas was Eric Boulton, then Santa finally found the lost gift in the crevice of the well-worn cushion in his sleigh, and he's here to make amends in snowy Nashville.
Boulton returns to the New York Islanders lineup tonight for the first time since Dec. 11 -- yes, about
four three months and several religious and calendar holidays ago -- and as Boulton is always too well aware, you never know if it will be his last appearance.
Matt Martin is suspended for one game, so somebody's gotta bring the pain to Music City, which is under a bit of a snow blitz but the games must go on.
Boulton shouldn't expect much ice time tonight; not that this is particularly new, but tonight his coach already announced that Boulton's center, Casey Cizikas, would get limited minutes as he likewise returns to the lineup.
If my tea leaves are in working order, I believe that means the Isles will try to lean heavy on three lines in their road visit to the very-good-but-slumping-and-ornery Predators, while using Cizikas & Co. (Colin McDonald is on the other wing) for select faceoffs and in the event someone looks to start a ruckus. As always, conditions may change.
- Jaroslav Halak is in net. Expect Pekka Rinne at the other end. The Isles go from Nashville to Florida, then finish the road trip in Toronto in the first half of a back-to-back that has the Smurfs at the Coliseum on the other end. So Michal Neuvirth will debut sometime soon.
- Filip Forsberg, who scored a spectacular individual-effort goal in the Isles win a few weeks ago, is in a bit of a goal drought with "only" two goals in his last 10 games and four in his last 18. Maybe it's the ol' "rookie wall," or maybe it's just the ol' "hockey has variance, so deal with it." His shot volume hasn't really changed, so bet on the latter.
- The Islanders haven't won in Nashville in six tries. The Predators are on a four-game losing streak. Neither means particularly much for tonight, but it's a thing that evokes patterns which give us meaning in this hopeless life that we trudge through with the sometimes-entertaining diversion called "sports."
- Jiggs McDonald is on the MSG+ call again for this one.
- Cizikas' return from a foot injury means Kael Mouillierat sits.
- The Predators have lost four straight. Quoth our friends at On the Forecheck: "Since about the beginning of February, Nashville's usually impressive defense has been underperforming while their offense has also dipped."
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here. Don't choose Martin.