The New York Islanders (and everyone else in the league) play their final game before a small Christmas weekend league shutdown tonight when the Buffalo Sabres visit in Kyle Okposo’s first visit to Barcalys Center since leaving as an unrestricted (and apparently unwanted) free agent.
The stakes are massively insignificant: The Sabres are just trying to do that “we’re climbing out of our rebuild, really” thing a solid seven points behind their nearest catchable playoff foe, while the Islanders are in an ugly limbo too far out of the playoff picture — and deservedly so -- as fans wait for something, anything to change.
But the captain has to say the right things, so:
"We want to put forth a great effort tonight, build off the win in Boston and get the two points." -@91Tavares | #Isles #BUFvsNYI pic.twitter.com/Ojy7LWElaA— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 23, 2016
The Islanders will keep their same lineup -- so, no Stephen Gionta and John Tavares was an injury concern, but he’s ready to go — including goalie Thomas Greiss, who stopped 48 shots in the win over the Bruins.
During thoroughly depressing times, Greiss lifts spirts:
"He's so competitive and makes our job easier as defensemen. He's constantly upbeat and that's huge for our group." -Hamonic on Greiss pic.twitter.com/YziObJ3kg2— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 23, 2016
Since the team is dull, frustrating and frankly poor by most important metrics, let’s distract ourselves with 1) welcome home, Kyle! Congratulations on your second rebuild!, and 2) hey here’s a cool heat map of player-shot activity on the Isles power play:
Islanders: Leddy with a big "patch", Tavares with the diagonal movements. pic.twitter.com/lOEBpY5LH9— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 22, 2016
Not very surprising if you’ve watched the Isles this season (you glutton, you), but still kind of neat. Follow Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath on Twitter) for more, including maps of each team, but the essence of what you’re looking at is this:
That’s the most-used unit of five on the power play and where (and from whom) the unblocked shots come from.
How to Watch
Bossy bless you. This one is on MSG+, 880 AM and 88.7 FM.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by game time, which is 7 p.m. EST.