Hockey From The Blind Side, Onto the Regular Season!
By John Panarese
This weekend marked the end of the preseason schedule for the Isles. Although it resulted in a 1-0 loss to the Devils and a 3-2 loss to the Bruins, it was, of course, preseason and the opening night roster was not present for the most part. Personally, I take nothing from the 1-4 record, as the Islanders spent a lot of important time giving the younger players a look and chances to show their play.
So, at the moment, seventeen guys were sent down to Bridgeport, which includes forwards, Casey Cizikas, Justin DiBenedetto, David Ullstrom, and, Tim Wallace, defensemen Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, and Ty Wishart, and goaltenders, Mikko Koskinen, Anders Nilsson, and, Kevin Poulin, among the group. With 3 guys on IR, the current roster still with the team comprises of 29 players. This, so far, includes Micheal Haley, Kirill Kabanov, Nino Niederreiter, Jay Pandolfo, Ryan Strome, and Dylan Reese.
Additionally, Rick DiPietro, Al Montoya, and Evgeni Nabokov are all obviously in the mix. It will be quite interesting to see if the Isles try to go with a 3 man goaltender rotation. This, historically, has never worked well, and it still leads me to personally believe that a trade of some kind could be an option. There are still pieces missing as far as making the team a strong contender for the playoff picture come April, so I have no doubts that Garth Snow is still exploring the possibilities to improve the team.
The Islanders will spend the week preparing and practicing for the Saturday opener against the Panthers. By Saturday, the roster will be trimmed even more. I have no doubts that Nino Niederreiter will remain with the team, but I would guess that Kirill Kabanov, and, Ryan Strome will probably spend another season in junior. However, stranger things have happened in the past, and since I have been unable to catch any of the preseason games, I have no idea if any of those guys have shown enough to the coaching staff to earn a spot on the final roster.
Since I can’t physically play the game of hockey, I can hardly imagine being in both the skates of the returning veteran, like Mark Streit, Marty Reasoner, or Mike Mottau, or the young guys trying to make the team like, Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter, or, Kirill Kabanov. I have no idea how it must feel like to go into training camp after a long summer off and preparing oneself for the new season. With all the expectations, the excitement and the predictions, it must be a simple thrill to approach opening night and kick it all off from there. How much I admire and envy these guys is something, as a humble fan and student of the game, I can hardly express in words.
I have been asked many times that if I was ever able to get my sight back by medical miracle or act of God what would be the first things I’d want to be able to view or see. There are, of course, the obvious things, like seeing ones parents and family members, and watching a sunrise or sunset. There are, without a doubt, other things that come to mind as well that would be natural for any red-blooded male, but also the little things that most sighted folks take for granted every day.
What takes most people by surprise is when I tell them that one of the first things I’d do is, if it was during the season, get myself to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Colosseum, by a ticket for a seat at ice level and just WATCH the game from beginning to end without interruption. Just don’t bother me. Let me sit there and take in every goal, every save, every hit, and every play. I would simply be in my GLORY.
I’d like nothing more than to see JT bat a puck into a net lacrosse style or Matt Moulson take out the trash with one of his usual “dirty goals”. I’d relish watching A-Mac break up what would appear to be a sure goal by an opposing player with that big stick of his, or Mark Streit fire a laser beam passed an opposing goaltender. Seeing Travis Hamonic level someone at center ice or Trevor Gillies unload on some poor soul in a scrap would plainly be money well spent. To enjoy Rick DiPietro steal a goal from some top sniper with an incredible glove save and cheer, “DP!”, at the top of my lungs with the same, instant emotion as the rest of the building would be fantastic. I’d surely enjoy observing the ice girls, but I’d want the puck to drop to start play again, and sit there long after the final whistle lost to the emotion of it all.
These are things most Islander fans take for granted, but they are also things that I’d love to even enjoy Once in my life. The closest I can come to “playing” the game of hockey is to be an owner in fantasy hockey, so come this weekend, it’s REALLY on for me. Since I have several Islanders on my rosters, well, there is added incentive for me to root for the blue and orange. Of course, on some nights, I’ll want Evgeni Malkin, Marion Hossa, Dustin Brown, Danny Briere, Pekka Rinne , and others to do well. Fortunately, though, I have no Rangers on my rosters, so I can sleep at night knowing that I won’t have to, dare I say, root for any of them ….
So, come Friday and Saturday, folks, get as fired up as I am. Hockey time is coming closer, and the preseason will be concluding. Regardless of what team you root for, when you are sitting down to watch a game this season either in some arena or on television, do me a favor? Watch it all and take it ALL in for me, OK? Just don’t take it for granted, as there are some who have to depend on imagination and the painted mental picture provided by the broadcast team.
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