Pregame 3/6/14: Islanders At Oilers

I promise not to rant, but I need to touch on the trade deadline before I get into the pregame report. I have absolutly no idea what Garth Snow and the Isles brass were thinking. Only getting a prospect and conditional 2nd round pick from Montreal for Thomas Vanek is inexcusable. Some have said GM's across the league became hesitant to go after Vanek after the reports surfaced of the Austrian Olympic team partying until the early morning the day before they were eliminated by Slovenia. Regardless, he should have been dealt before the Olympics anyway. 

Garth Snow was on the clock the minute it became public knowledge that Vanek rejected the Isles 7 year, $50 million offer and wanted to test free agency. Once that news broke the clock was ticking. The NHL is a business over everything else. Other teams knew that the closer to the deadline it got, the more desperate the Isles would be to get something in return for the scorer. The Olympic debacle certainly didn't help, but that cannot be the excuse for the miniscule return the Isles accepted from Montreal. I can all but guarantee that the offers made by teams like Los Angeles and Detroit were highest just before the Olympic roster freeze and Snow elected to roll the dice and see if he could get more. In the end he got burned and there is no one to blame but Snow and Wang. With that out of the way, lets move on.

These teams have been linked in a number of ways over the years. It began with the Islanders dynasty era of the early 1980's. The Islanders 4th and final cup of their consecutive championship run came by defeating Edmonton. The following year Edmonton went on to beat the Isles in the finals and won 4 of 5 Stanley Cups during their Wayne Gretzky era.

Today, the two clubs share a less than desirable link. Both are in rebuilding processes that have been unsuccessful to date and have taken substantially longer than expected. The Islanders have drafted well as has Edmonton, but even with 3 consecutive 1st overall selections the Oilers still struggle to find an identity.

Goaltending is another achillies heel for both teams. For the Islanders, it is a lack of consistency due to an aging veteran starter in Evgeni Nabokov and unreliable youthful backups in Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson. In Edmonton, they have lacked a legitimate #1 goalie for the past few years but seem to have that sorted out now. This year alone, Edmonton has rolled out Devan Dubnyk, Jason Labarbera, Richard Bachman, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ben Scrivens and now Viktor Fasth. With Scrivens signed to a 2 year extention and Fasth getting a new start by leaving Anaheim, the Oilers should be set in goal, at least on paper.

 

New York Islanders at Edmonton Oilers (9:30pm MSG Plus, WRHU 88.7 FM)

 

New York Islanders (24-32-8; 56 points, 8th in Metropolitan Division)

Projected Lineups:

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Anders Lee - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Matt Martin - Cazey Cizikas - Mike Halmo

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Brian Strait - Matt Donovan

Evgeni Nabokov
Anders Nilsson

 

Edmonton Oilers (21-34-8; 50 points, 7th in Pacific Division)

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov
Jesse Joensuu - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - David Perron
Luke Gadzic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Philip Larsen - Justin Schultz
Andrew Ference - Mark Fraser
Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Ben Scrivens
Viktor Fasth

 

-This is the Islanders and Oilers second and final meeting of the season. The first came on October 17th at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders won the game 3-2 but not without a scare. Oilers forward Taylor Hall scored two goals in a span of 8 seconds and in the blink of an eye it seemed as if the Oilers were going to pour it on.

-I expect the starters in net to be Evgeni Nabokov for the Isles and Ben Scrivens for Edmonton. Anders Nilsson gave Nabokov the day off in their last game at Winnipeg and Viktor Fasth had not arrived to Edmonton in time for the morning skate, but is expected to be there and ready to back up for the game. 

-The Islanders face a tall task if Edmonton keeps the same line combinations as last game, namely their first line. Their three consecutive 1st overall draft picks (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov) were playing together. I don't care how much Edmonton has struggled as a whole this season, having that top level talent on one line can explode for points if the Isles aren't responsible defensively. Yakupov has been hot as well posting 4 points in his last 5 games.

-For the Islanders the name of the game for the remainder of the year is utilizing their speed and youth. We all know how explosive Michael Grabner is, but rookies Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Mike Halmo and Matt Donovan are looking to secure both roles and roster spots for next year. Anders Lee has been hot for the Isles putting up 3 goals and 1 assist in 4 games since being recalled from Bridgeport.

Lets all keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best over the remaining 18 games.

Bryan Curran
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