It’s Friday night, and the New York Islanders host a reeling — cue “letdown” and “asking for a fall” phrasing here — Arizona Coyotes squad that flew into town after losing badly in Montreal last night.
Several storylines beg our attention:
Strome vs. Strome
Ryan Strome has had his ups and downs as an Islander, a heralded top pick who’s had some trouble earning the trust of the Isles coaching staff. Now his more heralded but completely green younger brother, Dylan, comes to town.
Will this be a Sylvain and Pierre Turgeon situation? Time will tell, but very cool to see the brothers both in the NHL and getting their first meeting here.
Ryan has been moved between center and wing — same old story — again this season, part of the same “strong down the middle” dynamic, even after Frans Nielsen’s deparure, that has Mathew Barzal waiting for his second NHL game.
The Coyotes official site had great quotes from both:
"We're both younger guys trying to get into the League and he's talked to me a little bit about how there's going to be ups and downs," Dylan Strome said. "It's hard for a rookie. It's not easy as an 18-year-old or 19-year-old playing against men, but you're a high draft pick and you've got to be responsible and be relied upon by your coach. He still, to this day, is trying to be reliable and, like everyone in the NHL, is hoping to be relied upon by their coach."
Ryan Strome, 23, can't wait to play against his kid brother.
"It's going to be a great reward for our hard work, our passion and our dedication," Ryan Strome said via conference call on Thursday. "We obviously talked about it in the summer a little bit and the possibility. I think now that it's kind of getting closer and some family's in town … I think it's kind of becoming more real and a dream come true."
Ryan’s played all four games this season with 1 goal and a minus-5. Dylan has played in two games, recording an assist.
Another heralded Ryan prospect, Ryan Pulock, is back up with the Isles for his first NHL game of the season. The general understanding is that he was only sent to Bridgeport because he’s waiver exempt and the Isles wanted to make room for both Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier on the roster before deciding whether to return either to juniors.
But if Pulock shows enough in these opportunities where he replaces an injured Nick Leddy in the lineup, he could be hard to send back.
Meanwhile, Shane Prince is skating and could be pushing to come off injured reserve soon, which would only add to the roster crunch and decisions.
And then over here you have third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube, taking up a spot on the roster but not seeing any game action.
New Mix on D
So Leddy’s pairing with Travis Hamonic has been victimized on a plurality of even strength goals against thus far this season. It’s just a four-game sample and every situation is different, but they haven’t looked good on several of them.
It’s not a question of them being victimized by pushing forward too aggressively for offense, either. The issue has been in the defensive zone and almost looks like lack of communication/being on the same page.
So at any rate Leddy’s injury, which can only hurt, at least will force a new look among the D pairings. At yesterday’s practice, according to Arthur Staple, those pairings were:
Hickey - Hamonic
de Haan - Boychuk
Seidenberg - Pulock
Pulock was also the only defenseman on the top power play unit in practice, with forwards John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd.
Halak Starts Again
Jaroslav Halak gets his third consecutive start tonight.
At the other end, Louis Domingue goes back in after being torched for four goals on 19 shots by the Canadiens last night. The Coyotes aren’t truly “reeling,” they’ve just given up a lot of goals while losing two of their first three games.
Domingue’s performance is important because Mike Smith is injured, and could be out for a while. The coach is watching:
"He's got to play better than the two games he's played," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll give him another opportunity and hope he responds."
No pressure, kid.
How to Watch
This one is on MSG+, WFAN (66AM 101.9FM), and Hofstra 88.7.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here by game time.