Can the Nashville Predators keep the good times rolling against the sad-sacks of the NHL, the New York Islanders? The return of Ryan Suter has helped spark a 5-0-2 stretch over Nashville's last seven games, but they can't let down their guard against an Islanders team which has won just one game in their last 20.
Yes, you read that right. The Islanders have just logged a quarter of the NHL season with just a single victory, a 2-0 home triumph over the equally-lame New Jersey Devils back on November 26.
In a nod to Military Monday, I'd like to point you to an article I wrote last season about Not Alone, a charity which helps support military personnel after they return home from combat duty. Please check out their website, and consider making a donation. Military personnel can get "best available" seats for $20 each to tonight's game, and for us mere civilians, be sure to check our page for discount Predators tickets. There's no local TV coverage.
New York Islanders
Quite simply, the New York Islanders are an embarrassment to the NHL these days. Already sorely lacking in talent heading into the season, injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo pretty much took away any chance they had of fielding a competitive hockey club in the opening months of the season. With 15 points through 27 games, they are on pace for a 46-point season, which would be by far the worst since the Great Lockout (Philadelphia notched 56 in 2006-7). Their games are broadcast by a college radio station, for crying out loud.
The player with the largest cap hit for the Islanders this season? That would be Alexei Yashin, who they bought out of his contract in 2007. Yes, there is some interesting talent here with John Tavares (1st overall draft choice in 2009), Matt Moulson and Blake Comeau, but after that it's spit and duct tape. Unlike a team like Edmonton, there's not enough talent around to properly support the young guns like Tavares and Josh Bailey (who was recently sent down to the AHL). While I sympathize with the optimism involved in having prospects take over key roles in the coming years, if they don't have real pros putting them in the best position to succeed, the Islanders could just keep spinning their wheels.
The two most notable events so far on Long Island have been the firing of coach Scott Gordon, and the removal from blogger Chris Botta of his media access to the team. Both look more like the results of an organization hitting the panic button than the sound, calculated maneuvers of a team seeking to rebuild.
I apologize to Islanders fans who may read this and think I'm unfairly piling on, but it's just sad to see a once-proud organization mired in such a long-standing mess.
The sky isn't falling on Long Island, it has fallen. Is the good news, perhaps, that things can't get much worse from here?
New York Islanders Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
The Preds have been able to put together a solid stretch lately despite missing Pekka Rinne and David Legwand (who is now expected to miss the entire week), as well as Matthew Lombardi, of course. Thanks to the solid goaltending of Anders Lindback and a defense corps that has stabilized since the return of Ryan Suter, Nashville has only given up 12 goals over the last seven games. The wingers are healthy by and large, leaving only the center position which is truly lacking in depth these days.
Offensive contributions are coming from pretty much all quarters, with Sergei Kostitsyn working a five-game scoring streak, and both Steve Sullivan & Colin Wilson having notched six points in the last eight games. Perhaps the best story, however, has been on the penalty kill, which has really found its stride since that awful game in Toronto, and now ranks 5th in the NHL at 85.6%. We won't talk about the other side of the special teams ledger, shall we?
Outlook For The Game
The Islanders are trying to reset things a bit under new coach Jack Capuano, and will likely try to slow the game down and clog things up as much as possible. They are coming in off of what was called perhaps the most frustrating game of their season, a 5-4 loss to Atlanta which included a goal given up right off a faceoff deep in the New York zone. They'll be especially motivated to bring a solid effort tonight against the Preds, so despite their awful record I would expect a competitive game.
If I had to guess, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Kostitsyn-Goc-Erat line have trouble if they try to carry the puck through center ice, as opposed to other lines which are more disposed towards playing dump-and-chase. The Islanders defense is injury-riddled, so getting the puck in deep and forcing them to turn around could be Nashville's best opportunity to generate offensive pressure.