Montoya returns to MSG tonight

By Gary Harding

Even with the even-tempered easy going makeup that is one Al Montoya, you know that he has to be chomping at the bit to play against the team that drafted him some seven years ago with the 6th overall pick.

Montoya, who never got the chance to show his full potential with the Blueshirts, thanks to a certain Swedish netminder named Lundqvist, has the opportunity to give the Rangers a little taste of that tonight, as the Islanders invade MSG this evening.

The former Michigan Wolverine, with a record of 7-2-3 with a paltry 2.03 goals against average and .930 save percentage gets his chance to stick his drafted team of a chance to further solidify their playoff hopes.

“I had no hard feelings. It was great to be drafted by such a great team,” said Montoya to the media yesterday. “But at the same time, this is where I am now.”

Montoya has been  a calming influence on the young defensive corps, and has helped the Isles become one of the stronger teams in the second half of this season.  His communication with his teammates and his capability of making the strong save, has allowed the team to put emphasis on the offensive game.

“For me, it’s a situation of a young man making the most of his opportunity,” said Islanders interim coach Jack Capuano. “He’s been square to the puck. He’s been vocal with our defense back there. He’s controlling his rebounds. To me, he’s been a competitor.”

With Montoya not signed for next season, the Islanders have difficult decisions to make.  With his play, Montoya has earned himself a shot at making this team.  The potential of a DiPietro/Montoya tandem lights up a great deal of Islanders fans that I have talked to, and could be a fixture for a long time (assuming that #39 stays, erm, uh, healthy).

The Islanders, one of the worst road teams in the league, head to the second stop on a 5 game road swing, that will take them to Carolina and Florida after tonight.  They are one of the lowest scoring teams on the road, and need to ‘step up’ their game, and get that important first goal.  The Rangers, by contrast, are one of the worst home teams in the league, and can be beaten if you take it to them early.  Letting this team get momentum can be detrimental (ask the Flyers last weekend).

Al – make sure that you re-introduce yourself to the Rangers faithful, and let them know that you are alive and well, and now living in Uniondale.