Is it a statement that the Penguins have chosen tonight’s game against the Islanders as the return for Sidney Crosby? I think not. I believe that this clearly demonstrates how the lack of toughness and physical play is viewed by the league in regard to the Isles.
I don’t think the Penguins would have picked a game against the Flyers or the Bruins or even the Capitals to be the first one Crosby would play in after returning from his concussion. Despite the “ferocious Friday” game of last February, well, let’s face it, the New York Islanders are NOT the same team as we saw in that infamous meeting that received all the press. Gillies and Haley are in Bridgeport and Zenon Konopka, who the Isles could use right about now, is not an Islander any more. Matt Martin and, to some extent, Travis Hamonic, are their only real physical presence at this point.
The only “benefit” the Isles will get tonight is that the game will be broadcast nationally on Verses. However, is this really a “benefit” for them? Fortunately, the attention and focus of the media will be on Sid, but, nevertheless, one would hope that we see a much better effort than what was put on display on Saturday against the Bruins.I guess some questions, to me, that come to mind would be;
Will we see the return of Kyle Okposo?
Will we see David Ullstrom, who was just called up from the Port, in the lineup?
Who will get the start in net for the Islanders?
Will we see any other lineup changes for the Islanders of note?
In my opinion, Okposo should be inserted back in the lineup. I think he became the “scapegoat” for the team, and Jack Capuano could have realistically chosen more than a few other guys to have watched the games from the press box over the last 3 nights.
Let’s face it. Ullstrom’s presence is a message from the coach and, perhaps, the GM. It is highly unlikely that he will bring sudden offensive production to the lineup, though I do expect him to play. I think that putting him in the lineup and, in turn, making someone else the “healthy scratch” is the “plan” for having Ullstrom up. Of course, it would be nice if he did add a spark on offense, but overall, I expect that we will see both him and Okposo playing tonight, and, consequently, two other forwards out of the lineup.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the decision is made to have Anders Nilsson make his first start in net as an Islander tonight. I don’t know how much that would help the team, but, again, messages are messages. Even so, Rick DiPietro would be the “safer” choice, regardless of his 1st period between the pipes Saturday night.
Lastly, well, any other changes to the lineup is surely a possibility. Finding some kind of spark or consistency or Life from the 20 who take the ice is most likely what Capuano will be seeking.
No matter what, though, tonight is going to be a telling game for the New York Islanders. How the team responds to a visibly angry coach and a truly lackluster effort in front of a home crowd will be important. This is a chance for redemption and recovery for the boys. Someone in that room, or, actually, a few Someones in that room have to step up and be the leaders who do so by example. Let’s hope that there are a few guys who recognize the desperation and importance of coming to play tonight.
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