The New York Islanders resume play against their new nemesis, the division-
leading-scorching Washington Capitals, with both teams embarking on the second game of a massive game-just-about-every-other-damn-day schedule over the next 70 days.
This one is televised on NBC Sports, and with the Capitals being part of the Comcast/NBC/whatever meg-conglomerates of our age, it's a good bet that means this "national" broadcast will feature
the ahem, sweet, ear-tickling sounds of the Capitals TV broadcast crew. [UPDATE: Not at all! We are spared and have professional play-by-play voice John Forslund.]
Just warning you, is all.
Small tweaks but no major lineup surprises for either side. The Caps will have Alex Ovechkin back after his league-rule one-game absence due to skipping out on the All-Star game.
They'll be without Thomas Hickey-slayer Marcus Johansson, but Taylor Chorney, who succumbed to nasty flu symptoms during the Capitals' loss to Florida, is expected back in.
Braden Holtby, who starts always, will be in goal.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Zach Sill - Michael Latta
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov- Taylor Chorney
The Islanders' two changes from their 5-3 win over Minnesota are Jaroslav Halak back in goal [insert final Berube rant here] and Brian Strait in for Scott Mayfield, who didn't have a great game Tuesday. Johnny Boychuk is evidently close to returning, but not yet ready.
Mikhail Grabovski - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Brian Strait
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky
Per the official site, the Isles know the Capitals are the gold standard so far, but they don't view themselves as far off, and they feel their last meeting, a 4-1 loss, wasn't a proper reflection of the contest.
"They are a team we measure ourselves against, but we believe we’re just as good as them," Frans Nielsen said.
The Islanders are basing that off of a closely contested seven-game series last spring that was decided by one goal and a closer-than-the-score-would-indicate 4-1 loss earlier this season.
"You lose a game 4-1 that you think you’ve had some chances, and we’ve won some games that you probably don’t think are 4-1 games," head coach Jack Capuano said.
It's tempting to read measuring stick and other spiritual implications from this meeting, but really it comes down to this: The Isles lost to the Caps in last year's playoffs and they know they are likely in their way again this spring. But to position themselves to have home ice and not face them again in the first round, the Isles just have to chip away and collect points game by game over the next 70 days.
On any given night, odd things can happen. Like, say, the Caps can flub their first post-All-Star game against the weaker Panthers and the Isles could draw the best team in recent memory three times right before they fall off a cliff.
A win tonight does not mean the demons are slayed. A loss does not mean anything more than what the previous 48 games have told us.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here; you get an extra half hour so use it wisely.