We're doing it again
Now that the holidays are done and over with, the battle of New York is upon us once again.
The New York Islanders head west, about thirty minutes west, to the famous Madison Square Garden to do battle with the cross town rival New York Rangers for the third time this month. In their last 14 games at Madison Square Garden, the New York Islanders are 9-4-1.
The last time the two clubs met there were back to back games that resulted in a split home and home series with both teams winning in the others building.
The rival Rangers have a four point lead in the standings on the Islanders with the Rangers having a game in hand. The Rangers hold the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, currently with 39 points while the Islanders sit in twelfth place with 35 points.
On Wednesday December 23rd, 2009, the night before the brief two day holiday break, the Islanders were able to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs by a final score of 3-1. The good news aside from getting two points was the fact that the Islanders were perfect on the penalty kill. The bad news, the power play failed.
This situation is something that has been noticed more as of late then it had to start the season. The special teams need to be more dominating, especially if the Islanders want to make a playoff push this season. Sure, it’s great to be able to beat teams five on five and get two points in the standings but when the team has the man advantage more then three times a game, they need to be able to capitalize.
Although it is “boxing day” in Canada, do not be surprised if it turns into fight night at Madison Square Garden. Tim Jackman is said to be returning to the line up tonight. Add that to the likes of Andy Sutton, Brendan Witt and Nate Thompson and the pesky Sean Avery will have a lot to think about while on the ice tonight. Yes, the Rangers have one of the best in the business when dropping the gloves and his name is Donald Brashear however, this Islanders team has the players that don’t back down when called into battle.
Tonight’s lineup (subject to change):
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Blake Comeau
Josh Bailey- Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Jon Sim - Rob Schremp - Trent Hunter
Tim Jackman - Nate Thompson - Richard Park
Mark Streit – Jack Hillen
Andy Sutton – Andy MacDonald
Brendan Witt – Bruno Gervais
Jeff Tambellini has been a healthy scratch for 17 of the Islanders’ 38 games this season. He is tied for 3rd on the team in goals. This makes one wonder why the kid is in the coach’s dog house. No words have been spoken of the situation, and inquiring minds want to know, why Scott, why?
Freddie Meyer will also be a healthy scratch for the club.
So barring any strange circumstances from now until game time, it’s all systems go. Dwayne Roloson will make his 25th appearance of the season between the pipes. He carries a record of 12-7-5 for the club, who hope to have him lead the way again tonight against the Rangers.
John Tavares is still leading the pack amongst rookies with 28 points in 38 games. He is five points ahead of both Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche and Niclas Bergfors of the New Jersey Devils who are both tied in second with 23 points a piece.
The Islanders are hoping for Tavares to get out of this slump he has hit with a few points tonight. He has one point, a goal against Toronto on Wednesday, in his last six games played.
Kyle Okposo is also looking to find his scoring touch, as he has been snake bitten all season long. One point over his last six games played as well which was an assist in a game against Tampa almost a week ago. With five goals on the year, the Islanders as well as Okposo know something is very wrong.
At this point, even a fluke goal to break out of the slump will be something Kyle and the team would greatly accept. The other, two points tonight.
Rick DiPietro, who has began full work outs and practices with the team, hopes to appear in a game prior to the New Year.
Doug Weight, who has been out since November 6th with a shoulder injury, hopes to return to the line up prior to the New Year as well.
Jesse Jonesuu has been returned to Bridgeport.