Once upon a December, these two teams met with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a record-defying win streak and the New York Islanders spiraling into what looked like inevitable season doom.
That game, a 6-2 Isles loss, wasn’t as bad as the score showed but the result was just the same.
Once upon a January, the same two teams met again except they were not quite the same team. The Isles, already showing mild signs of improvement under Jack Capuano, had found a completely new life after the change was made to interim head coach Doug Weight. They’re up to 12-4-2 under the new guy.
Their 4-2 win that night was their fourth in five games, and fourth consecutive home game earning a point under Weight.
It continued a “win one, lose one” string for Columbus that makes them damned grateful they reeled off 16 consecutive wins earlier in the season.
The Blue Jackets, currently holding the first wild card spot in the East, are just a point behind the Rangers and two points behind Pittsburgh for the Metro’s proper playoff spots. They’re also 11 points ahead of the Isles, so they could even continue their recent NHL .500 play for the rest of the season and still easily make the playoffs.
But tonight holds intrigue, for both sides, as we re-evaluate who the “real” team is behind each squad. Added to that is the backdrop that this is the Islanders’ final game before the trade deadline, while the Jackets are coming off their five-day bye “week.”
Tonight surely doesn’t change how Garth Snow views his team — barring new injuries, that is -- but at least in theory they could have a different look when they hit the West next week.
Doug Weight: "We’ve scratched and clawed to get our relevance back. Now we have to continue with that same attitude." #isles— Neil Best (@sportswatch) February 25, 2017
The Islanders, still missing Travis Hamonic, Cal Clutterbuck, Shane Prince and Casey Cizikas, will dress the same lineup that dispatched the Canadiens 3-0 Thursday in Montreal.
That includes Thomas Greiss in goal.
The Blue Jackets, coming off their bye “week,” will reportedly have Joonas Korpisalo (gesundheit!) in goal. Though they’re rested, they have new injuries in Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert.
This one is on MSG+2 (twice the plus!) for TV and for radio.
Note that for Newsday, Arthur Staple isn’t on this one. Follow Neil Best (@sportswatch) for their Isles coverage.
For our SB Nation counterparts, it’s the Cannon for your CBJ needs.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by game time, which is 5 p.m. EST. Yes, 5 p.m.