The New York Islanders are in Minnesota to commence the true travel in their seven- (but really five-) game road trip, but this one will start without much-anticipated prospect Ryan Pulock.
Pulock, who was recalled yesterday for this trip and has yet to make his NHL debut, is waiting at least one more game to make his debut after playing back-to-back games with Bridgeport over the weekend.
Perhaps he's also catching up on meetings. Perhaps there's an angle for his family catching his NHL debut.
Islanders (31-19-7, 3rd/Metro) @ Wild (27-22-10, 6th/Central)
8 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (twice the plus!)
audio, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
[carboninzed fossils] Center
Under a new Torch: Hockey Wilderness
Capuano did promise Pulock would play on the trip, however. He is with the club after Calvin de Haan was placed on IR. De Haan, though eligible to come off IR immediately, may join the team later on the trip but will be kept off the ice for a few days.
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal opposite Devan Dubnyk, while Steve Bernier steps in for the injured Mikhail Grabovski. That last change will lead to some line changes -- including the Best Fourth Line in Hockey (TM)'s chief scorer Cal Clutterbuck.
That could mean just a few subtle changes -- Arthur Staple of Newsday suggested Bernier would join the fourth line while Clutterbuck, an ex-Wild, would move up to the line with Minnesotans Brock Nelson and Anders Lee while Josh Bailey takes Grabovski's spot on the top line. But we'll see.
Capuano didn't commit to new lines, those were my projections. Did say 12 will be on top line and 15 would likely move around.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 23, 2016
Tonight and this whole trip is big for the Isles, who completed a successful homestand and capped it with a win in New Jersey. But all that did was get them in third place in the Metro, just one point ahead of Pittsburgh, three ahead of New Jersey -- and now five behind the Rangers, who have played two more games.
The stakes are high and won't let up. And as Mike stated in the Islanders Anxiety podcast, just when we're starting to feel confident is when we should probably expect to be punched in the stomach.
Wild About Hockey
The Wild, of course, are experiencing one of those renewed leases on life after firing Mike Yeo, promoting AHL coach John Torchetti as interim, and enjoying a 4-0 start under their fiery new boss.
Though things had gone amiss during yet another mid-season slump under Yeo, the contrasting fates reflect both why teams make coaching changes and why they can be misleading: They weren't as bad as that 1-11-2 tanking under Yeo, and they aren't as good as the 4-0 Blackhawks-thrashing (outdoor game) start under Torchetti.
As Hockey Wilderness put it, in a way that both bodes well and fore-haunts the Isles trip to the same opponents:
But they are a good team, with a strong roster, one that puzzlingly goes through a swoon every season, but which usually gives the Isles a good game. The current season's slump included the 5-3 loss in Brooklyn at the beginning of February, a surprisingly easy affair for the Isles.
Now they're back home, with a great start under their new coach, and with reason to think that awful coach-killing slump did not kill their playoff chances.
Torchetti: "We've got to reset for tonight and start getting the job done at home." #mnwild— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) February 23, 2016
Torchetti: I like our confidence going forward...tonight's a good start for us. It's the NHL, you better be ready to play to get a win.— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) February 23, 2016
W Zucker out, Porter slides onto Vanek-Granlund line. Torch not breaking up hot Nino-Haula-Pominville line or Carter-Stoll-Fontaine #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) February 23, 2016
We are emerging from the dog days of the season. The trade deadline is near and the jockeying for playoff position is in full swing. With both teams having lots to play for, tonight should be a good one.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here by 8 p.m. EST.