This is the only visit the Blues will make to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum this year. We haven't played on Long Island for the longest time - not since March 2011. Assuming the Islanders fulfill their lease obligations, the Islanders will call it home for one more season before movin' out and starting the 2015-2016 season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Maybe our boys in blue can grab some souvenirs while they are there. I'd be happy with just picking up 2 more points.
The Islanders are a curious team. For many years, they were the butt of many a joke: An owner named Wang, and a GM named Garth.... said GM having been promoted to that position directly from his previous job as backup goaltender in 2006... the 15-year contract they agreed to for Rick DiPietro .... DiPietro's career full of injuries and comebacks and more injuries since then... Watching Wang's kid grow up at each year's draft .... Having an "official cupcake" and an in-house tattoo artist ... and, until last year, they had missed the playoffs 13 of the previous 17 years. Blues fans can't scoff too much, though; you know what they say about folks living in glass houses. At least our struggles and rebuild was outside the media circus of New York.
Lately, though, the team has started to perform to expectations. A team built on the waiver wire and draft picks, they've started to show some results. Although they lost in the first round last year, they gave Pittsburgh all they could handle, and pushed them to 6 games. That makes this season particularly frustrating for Isles fans. Through 53 games, they are at the bottom of the Meh-tropolitan Division with a 21-25-7 record. There have been rumblings about coach Jack Capuano's job security. Only one other Metro team has more goals scored than them (division leader Pittsbugh), so offense isn't really the issue. It's the 2nd-Worst-In-The-League 175 goals allowed that has been killing them (The worst? Emonton #NoD). Contributing to that is a league-worst Penalty Kill, at 75.6%.
The team has gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games, though, so they appear to be heating up. This is likely spurred on by the play of Kyle Okposo - he has 6 goals and 6 assists in the 12 games since he was snubbed by the US Olympic Team selection group. A lot of Islanders fans thought that he should have been named to the team, and his point-per-game pace all year has made a strong case that they're right to think so. Don't ask me why he was left off, although that was a tough roster to crack.
The leader on the team as Captain, top goal scorer, and tops in overall points, is John Tavares (23g, 40a) , followed by Kyle Okposo with 21 goals and 31 assists. Frans Nielsen has 42 points on 17 goals and 25 assists. Next is Thomas Vanek, acquired in trade earlier this season. His 36 points in 37 games (14g, 22a) and Andrew MacDonald (3g, 23a) round out the top 5. The Isles have been hit with injuries - not as many as Detroit, perhaps, but to some really key players. The Islanders will be missing Travis Hamonic (day-to-day with an Upper Body Injury), Evgeni Nabokov (on IR for a Lower-Body injury), and especially Lubomir Visnovsky, who has missed most of the season with a concussion. That was a big shot to their defensive corps, and it shows.
In Nabokov's absence, the net has been minded by Kevin Poulin. He has an 11-15-0 record, with 3.17 GAA and .893 save percentage. The backup will be Anders Nilsson (1-2-2), with a 3.48 GAA and .877 SV%. With those kind of numbers, if the Blues can apply some offensive pressure, we should put up some goals.
Final Verse: The road trip ends with a game at 12:00 Noon St Louis time, an easy one for our European friends. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. The GDT should drop shortly before the puck does. Until then, consider this your morning skate. Gather here, huddle for warmth, share your favorite Saturday morning cartoon, and recollect this dandy against the Isles from a few years ago: