The New York Islanders bring their up-and-down ship back home for a meeting with the mighty Los Angeles Kings, a team left for dead early in the season by those who look only at (short-term) records and slumps, but who are now comfortably dusting the Pacific off their shoulder like some such Thornton lint.
Most frighteningly, the Kings are coming off a #HereComeTheOilers-level embarrassment of the Bruins in Boston, which surely brought smiles to the faces of all acquainted with but not wed to Boston sports.
The news for the visitors is the waiving of Christian Ehrhoff, whom 29 teams should have claimed at the instruction of their fans and yet none did. (Speculation is some teams will try to work out a trade that exchanges salaries/bodies/whatever.) The Kings recalled Kevin Gravel in his place, and Jewels from the Crown has the lowdown on the new guy from St. Cloud (well, college-wise anyway; he's originally from Michigan).
Islanders (28-18-6, 3rd/Metro) vs. Kings (32-17-3, 1st/Pacific)
7 p.m. | MSG+, audio, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
Brooklyn's [ingloriously sponsored] Center
Faces of Crown: Jewels from the Crown | Battle of Cali
We've written, and podcasted, plenty about the pervasive lukewarm feelings the Islanders have elicited from their fanbase this season. They are a good team, an often entertaining team, but one that doesn't look like it's on the cusp of greatness nor at the edge of the precipice.
Their play has left us wanting at times, though some of their best efforts have resulted in tough-luck losses. It's the nature of a parity-and-cap league, perhaps, against the backdrop of their playoff conquerors from last spring running away with the Metropolitan Division.
Either way, the stretch run is about here, the trade deadline looms, and as Dan and Mike mused in that last Islanders Anxiety, this team whose roster looks so much like last season's but whose performance falls short, will soon have a different look. It's their last run with Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic and Frans Nielsen all in the fold at the same time.
If magic, or lightning in a bottle, could somehow be caught for a long playoff run, tonight's opponent is a good representation of what they would likely meet on the other side.
#Isles were 18-8-5 when their 8-0-2 streak ended on Dec. 15. They're 10-10-1 since. Most telling: 3-7-0 last 10 vs. teams in playoff spots.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 11, 2016
#Isles have beaten only two Eastern Conf. playoff-spot teams this yr: NYR (2x) and TBL. 0-8-1 against the other 5 (WSH, DET, FLA, PIT, BOS).— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 11, 2016
On the flip side, #Isles are 9-3-1 against Western Conf. playoff-position teams, with LAK in town tonight. Been a strange year.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 11, 2016
Strange year, yes. The Isles' 2-1 loss in Los Angeles earlier this season was actually one of their more cohesive efforts -- and back in those "oh, the West Coast trip will cure what ails us again" days. But the big rally has yet to come.
Thomas Greiss is in goal tonight, otherwise the Strait-eriffic lineup is the same as it's been, meaning Marek Zidlicky sits again and Steve Bernier continues to be trapped in a gravitational wave somewhere.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here by official game time.