The New York Islanders, one point from clinching a playoff spot but needing more than that for home-ice advantage, will visit a longtime
Patrick Metro foe tonight to advance their cause.
They'll do so with a few notable lineup changes caused by injury.
Islanders (46-27-6, 3rd/Metro) @ Flyers (32-29-18, 6th/Metro)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+2 (twice the channel search!) | WRHU
[something less than Spectrum] Center/Place/Arena-maybe
Orange and black and Penguin-thumping: Broad Street Hockey
Tucked into the middle of the long-running "Wait, why the hell play Brian Strait over Calvin de Haan?" saga comes a different lineup maneuver -- at least as unofficially depicted by the official site that nicely samples the zeitgeist of Islanders fans who have watched this rebuild since 2008: Ryan Strome set to line up on John Tavares' wing, while Josh Bailey is slated at...center?
The latter is a result of Frans Nielsen finally sitting out a game to rest his nagging injury, but it's related to the former -- namely, the Isles' reluctance to use Strome at center, while also being enticed by the potential magic-at-least-on-paper of putting Strome and Tavares together.
Granted, all of that is unofficial and "to be determined," so disregard it if something else emerges.
However, here is an Islanders fan lineup war history (non-blueline version) in three bullets:
- Bailey was drafted (and RUSHED!!1) in 2008 as a center, but didn't excel there. He's also gotten increasingly defensively apt...as a winger. Only those holding out on a remote ridge in Wyoming without broadband still consider him center-worthy*.
- Strome was drafted in 2011 as a center, even though Garth Snow barely got "Ryan Stro-" out of his mouth before fans and loud commentators fantasized about seeing his deft right-shooting hands next to Tavares (Tavares is himself a center, always a center, who some thought should be tried at wing).
- The Islanders are so deep at center they have several playing wing -- good ones like Mikhail Grabovski, Strome, sometimes Brock Nelson -- as well as the Special Case of Casey Cizikas, who is entrenched as fourth-line center because he does Fourth Line Things and that's that.
*Note: We did get a one-shift teaser of Bailey at center again in the last game, when Nielsen grimaced on the bench and went to the locker room to put fear in us all.
Said Jack Capuano, citing Chapter 5 of the Oxford Coachspeak Dictionary:
We have some injuries like any other team. Guys are going to get an opportunity to step up and play some minutes.
And that's not even getting to...wait a minute! Michael Grabner is back!
With Nielsen and Matt Martin both sitting -- Martin possibly because seldom-used Eric Boulton shot him in the leg (CONSPIRACY!) last game -- that means both Grabner and Colin McDonald are back in for the first time in weeks. McDonald will be opposite Boulton and probably improve the hockey-ability of that line.
Grabner, who's battled recovery from preseason hernia surgery all season, and apparent illness recently, plays for the first time since March 14. McDonald, demoted in the first month because Anders Lee was clearly ready, has gotten some more looks -- and scored a couple -- late in the season first due to injuries, then due to post-deadline roster expansion.
By the looks of it, Grabner gets some top-six action with Bailey and Kyle Okposo, so who knows what magic might come. Since Bailey tends to take a more conservative position on the ice, he might be able to spring Grabner for some trademark bullet train breakouts.
In the standings, the Isles are looking both above and below them. They have a game in hand on the Capitals, so an outright win would move them a point above Washington for second place. Regulation or OT is preferred, of course; Washington has the head-to-head tiebreaker and the teams are tied with 39 ROWs each.
Below the Isles are a handful of teams three points behind with 95 points, including the Penguins (LOL) who play in Ottawa (93 points) tonight in a game that starts a half hour after the Isles.
When you're not freaking out about something or other, you remember that this is a really entertaining time of the year. (Also, if you're lucky, you remember this is just a sport. But being grounded is hard for 21st-century man.)
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season, the Islanders are 3-0 against the Flyers, and they've never swept them in a season series. Sorry.
Our resident FIGmeister and power rankings keeper is back from introducing his first-born to this crazy world, so look for updated First Islanders Goal pick standings. And leave your pick for tonight here. We'll keep it up during the playoffs, but as in the NHL, that's a whole new season.