Sunday, December 30, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 5, Devils 2

And we thought the Toronto game was exciting.

The full house at the Coliseum Saturday night not only saw the Islanders score five -- count 'em -- FIVE goals in a game but were also treated to some Eddie Shore-type hockey, with a handful of fights and tough defense as the Isles went 4-0 against the Devils this season with a 5-2 victory. It was the Isles' fourth win in five games and the first time the team scored as many as five goals in a game since Oct. 18.

Quite a bit different than the 5-2 loss at Ottawa two nights earlier. Instead of being bombarded with shots, winning goalie Wade Dubielewicz had some help in front of him, and his defensemen not only clamped down on Jersey but joined the attack, with three d-men scoring goals.

Chris Campoli, who loves to jump in on offense, got the Isles the lead with a shorthanded goal in the first and then Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the power play in the second. The Devils rallied to tie, but then Andy Sutton of all people scored what proved to be the game-winner, one-timing a nice feed from Mike Sillinger from the top of the slot. Sean Bergenheim finally scored a goal, ending a 25-game drought, and Mike Comrie added the empty-netter. Sillinger had another strong night with three assists, as did Richard Park, who had two helpers.

Sutton recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick, with a goal, assist and a fight, taking on Michael Rupp. It was the third bout of the evening. Comrie and Mike Mottau threw down in the first after Comrie creamed Mottau with a devastating hit. Bill Guerin and David Clarkson exchanged pleasantries right before the Sutton-Rupp main event.

As if that wasn't enough good news, Kyle Okposo has signed for three years at $2.55 million. Okposo helped the USA improve to 3-0 at the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic with a 3-2 win over Russia, assisting on the first goal of the game.

Okposo will join the organization when he returns but it isn't clear whether he'll report to Bridgeport or make the jump to the NHL immediately. Figure the Isles, as long as they're winning, play it safe and start him with the Sound Tigers while Garth Snow weighs his options on how to improve the team for the playoff push.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT)

This was one of those good news/better news/bad news games for the Islanders. The good news is that Wade Dubielewicz proved that he can step it up for the team when they need it. The better news is that Dubie's stellar play in the third period and overtime helped the Islanders win their third straight game, a 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

The bad news is that the reason Dubie was in goal in the first place is that Rick DiPietro suffered a knee injury in pregame warmups and lasted just the first period, in which the Islanders scored three goals, which if my math is correct represented a 300 percent increase in scoring efficiency compared to the last six weeks.

DiPietro was scheduled to get an MRI and be reevaluated Thursday, and as of 11:15 a.m. there has been no update. DiPietro will not make the trip to Ottawa for Thursday night's game against the Senators, so Yoda will need to use the force again tonight.

Mike Comrie scored twice, including the OT game-winner off an assist from Richard Park, who had a career-best three assists in the game. Of course, Park made the winning play as the final seconds of overtime ticked away by stealing the puck from Jason Blake, making his return to the Coliseum as a Maple Leaf. Blake was treaded well by the Islanders with a video tribute and was mostly well-received by the crowd, so there probably more than a few pangs of pain when he his giveaway led to Comrie's game-winner with less than 10 seconds left on the clock (right, Dee?).

It was a fabulous play by by Park, who has been one of the team's best players this season. He stole the puck at the Islanders' blue line, broke into the Maple Leafs zone and fired a shot of which a Toronto defender got a piece. But Comrie was there charging to the net and put the puck past Andrew Raycroft, another backup getting rare playing time.

Park has the opportunity to make that play thanks to Dubie, who got some help from the crossbar on a shot by Mats Sundin but was otherwise a stone wall as he made four BIG stops in the OT in a shooting-gallery atmosphere.

Another interesting development was the significant playing time afforded Blake Comeau and Freddy Meyer, particularly at the end of the game. Comeau has some serious jump and it's clear that Ted Nolan is going to give him the opportunities to help the team. I love the fact that there are so many young players contributing to a team that is also winning.

It was a thrilling victory, to be sure, and it was great to see Dubie coming up huge. But let's not kid ourselves - the Isles need DP back, pronto. Let's hope he's OK.

Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track (who had a great live blog of the game) says Joey Macdonald of the Sound Tigers will back up Dubie tonight in Ottawa.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 3, Capitals 2 (OT)

OK, so they only scored three again, and they lost the lead with less than a minute to play in regulation, but the Islanders still prevailed and sent the home crowd to the Christmas break happy with a 3-2 overtime win.

What you have to like about this team is that there are so many players that you want to root for. Take Richard Park. He never takes a shift off and he does pretty much whatever Ted Nolan asks him to. And with every shift he's taken on more responsibility, and is now much more than a fourth-liner and penalty killer. He played up with Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin tonight, and the line put in two of the Isles' three goals.

Park's game-winner came off a faceoff win -- again, the little things -- and was aided by the fact that Caps defenseman Mike Green accidentally got hit in the face by teammate Jeff Schultz as Park worked the puck. With Green down behind the net, Park took a wrister from the left circle and found the five-hole, igniting the pandemonium.

Miro Satan, as he did the night before, got the Isles up 1-0 with a second-period wrister. The Caps evened the score and it was 1-1 late in the third when Chris Campoli fired a blast at Olaf Kolzig. Bill Guerin was there for the rebound -- he's coming around again -- with what looked to be the game-winner. But Washington stunned the house when, with Kolzig pulled, the dangerous Alex Ovetchkin beat Rick DiPietro, forcing OT.

Credit Radek Martinek and the Islanders' defense for not only limiting Ovetchkin all night, the way they did against Sidney Crosby the night before, but for holding the Caps to just 14 shots on goal. Kudos also to Chris Botta, who was honored for 20 years with the team. Nice work, Chris -- you've been great to us bloggers and the Isles are lucky to have you.

In other news, an interesting take on the Kyle Okposo situation in the New York Times. I couldn't agree more.

And Nolan had extra reason to smile Saturday night when son Brandon made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes, where of course he plays for ex-Isles coach Peter Laviolette. Brandon got an assist on Carolina's first goal in its 4-1 victory.

So with no games until after Christmas Day, allow Still Drivin' to wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Game recap: Islanders 4, Penguins 2

Break out the New Year's champagne early, folks. The Islanders finally broke the three-goal barrier. That they won on the road against the division-rival Penguins is perhaps more important than the goal total, but when you look at how this team has struggled offensively, it's nice to have finally popped that cork.

Since November 1, a 23-game stretch, the Isles had not scored more than three goals in a game. Two-goal leads may as well have been 20. But now Blake Comeau is in the house. In his second game with the big club the 21-year-old assisted on Andy Hilbert's game-tying goal and scored what proved to be the game-winner with a slap shot midway through the third. Just 37 seconds later, Trent Hunter gave the Isles a two-goal lead to secure the victory.

A quick primer on Blake Comeau (not to be confused with Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo or Lake Como, the Italian Rivera resort where George Clooney lives large with supermodels): He helped Team Canada win gold at the 2003 U18 tournament in Russia, and then led the Kelowna Rockets win the Memorial Cup a year later. In 2005, Comeau scored 21 goals with 53 assists for 74 points in 60 games, and also helped Canada win gold at the IIHF Under 20 World Championships, leading the team in points under head coach Brent Sutter. So the guy is a winner.

He had 12 goals and 31 assists for 43 points with the Sound Tigers last season. He wasn't exactly setting Bridgeport on fire this season, with three goals and six helpers in 25 games, but he has a great opportunity now with Chris Simon suspended for 30 games.

Comeau teamed with Hilbert and Tim Jackman for a productive line, while Miro Satan scored 44 seconds into the game for his fourth point (three goals) in four games against the Pens this season.

Up next, the Capitals tonight at the Coliseum in what Isles fans hope will be an early Christmas present. Hope to see many, many of you there!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Isles lose Simon, lose to Sabres, but gain Okposo

While it may seem hard to believe that Chris Simon got an NHL-record 30-game suspension for what he did to Jarkko Ruutu, I can't argue with the decision by Colin Campbell. This is the new NHL, after all, and you have to take into account a player's past transgressions, and Simon is currently one of the league's worst offenders and should not -- cannot -- be on the ice.

Simon's seventh career suspension in 15 seasons was his second in nine months, coming on the heels of the 25-gamer for whacking Ryan Hollweg in the face. I thought that suspension was a bit harsh considering the circumstances, but the league has a zero-tolerance policy now and all the players know it. And while tripping Ruutu and then stepping on his foot isn't nearly as bad as the fouls committed by Jesse Boulerice or Steve Downie, or the cowardly hit by Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeon, or Todd Bertuzzi's sucker punch of Steve Moore, it's still, in Campbell's words, "repugnant and totally unacceptable."

It's good to see that Simon will undergo counseling "at the behest of Charles Wang" according to Newsday, and everyone who knows the Islanders knows Simon is well-liked and respected by his teammates. Here's hoping he can resolve whatever issues he has, but his time on the Islanders is very close to an end.

Regarding Campbell's comment that Simon would meet with "drug and alcohol doctors," that's typical Campbell. The guy seems to be a few cents short of a dollar, and Ted Nolan was right on the money for calling Campbell's comment "idiotic" as well as racially insensitive. But we're not surprised.

Meanwhile, the Isles fell to .500 with a 2-1 loss to the Sabres at the Coliseum Wednesday night, despite outshooting Buffalo, 43-17. Credit Ryan Miller for making several big stops, but it's the quality of chances that count, not the quantity. The power play lost its recent momentum, going 0-for-5. Brendan Witt, of all people, scored the only goal with a great screen by Sean Bergenheim, who has really played well lately.

All those shots couldn't get the Isles the lead, and then Maxim Afinogenov provided the backbreaker with a backhander with 2:17 left in the third. A 6-on-4 with DiPietro pulled came up empty, and now the Islanders have only won two of their last 10 games. The offensive problems are really taking their toll now.

But help COULD be on the way in the form of Kyle Okposo, which is making our pal Ken at Okposo Net a happy man - even moving him to compose poetry! The seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft was struggling in his sophomore year at Minnesota after a fine freshman year, and decided to call it quits and go pro. Unhappy playing center for coach Don Lucia (and with the Golden Gophers playing like, well, gophers) Okposo will represent the U.S. at the Under-20 World Juniors next week in the Czech Republic and could be an Islander (or at least a Sound Tiger) in January, if they can work out a deal - which they should.

The 19-year-old Okposo is a stud, a guy who can really help on the right wing, and the Isles could use some new blood up front. With Freddy Meyer and Blake Comeau playing against Buffalo, is a major shakeup coming? Probably not, but some change is needed to snap this team out of the goal-scoring doldrums.

Just one last note on the attendance Wednesday - just over 10,000. Not horrible, but the pattern of sparse weekday crowds and big weekend crowds at the Coliseum was not lost on Mike and the Mad Dog, who opened last Friday's show -- believe it or not -- talking about the Islanders. Francesa actually watched some of the game against the Coyotes, and - admitting he knows almost nothing about the Islanders - had praise for, as he put it, "number 28." Told it was Tim Jackman, Francesa said he liked what he saw from him, but didn't have much to say about anyone else.

Thanks for the insight, Mikey.

Russo harped on the attendance, noting that it was terrible weather against a Western Conference opponent, but he still didn't think those were reasons enough for so many empty seats. He has a point - you would like to see more fans and it's something I've noticed - but the weather combined with the who-are-these-guys Coyotes PLUS the way the Isles have been playing lately doesn't add up to a sellout, no matter how you slice it.

So should we be happy that M&MD took some time to talk Islanders hockey? Or should they stick to football, tennis and horse racing?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Game recap: Penguins 3, Islanders 2

Plenty of Islanders fans and personnel (and this blogger) have defended Chris Simon these last few months, noting that he is a good teammate and person and shouldn't be judged for the swipe he took at Ryan Hollweg's head last season. And by all accounts, Simon is a good guy who has made some bad decisions.

What he did against the Penguins, however, goes well beyond that and there is no defense for it. Slew-footing Jarkko Ruutu as he's stepping into the bench is one thing. Intentionally stepping on his foot with your blade while he is down is quite another.

It doesn't matter what the situation is, or how tense the game is, or who the opposing player is or what he may have said or done to possibly instigate such an act (and Ruutu has a rep) -- it's wrong, and Simon had plenty of time to think about it. That it happened with less than six minutes left in the third and the Isles down a goal makes it more mind-boggling. What was accomplished? How does that help the team? You have to be smarter than that, there's just no excuse.

The five-minute match penalty just about killed any hope of an Isles comeback, although they did have some shorthanded chances, including a great one on a breakaway by Mike Sillinger that was stopped by Dany Sabourin.

That the Islanders were that close seemed unlikely after a first period that saw the Pens dominate, jumping out to a 2-0 lead with goals less than four minutes apart. A giveaway led to Sidney Crosby's goal and then Ryan Whitney beat Rick DiPietro (37 saves) with a wrist shot. (Full disclosure, Whitney - like D.P. - went to my alma mater, BU, and is on my fantasy hockey team. So I wasn't THAT upset.)

Give the Isles credit for battling back at home, netting two in the second on a nice goal by Richard Park off a feed from Mike Comrie. Then just 45 seconds later, a beautiful breakout from Bergenheim to Vasicek to Satan and then back to Vasicek charging the net, tying the score. Things were looking up and the crowd was rocking.

It didn't last, as Tyler Kennedy (three points) scored on the power play to put the Pens up, 3-2, before the end of the second. It was Pittsburgh's only PPG in six chances.

The Isles will get ready for the Sabres at home Wednesday night (can we draw more than 10,000 on a weeknight?), and wait to hear from the NHL about Simon, who will likely get the seventh suspension of his career. You have to question what he's bringing to the table at this point, and whether it's worth it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 3, Coyotes 2

A psuedo-live blog tonight as the Isles welcome Wayne Gretzky and his Phoenix Coyotes to the Coliseum. I say pseudo because I'm watching the game now on the DVR, and I didn't start recording until the second period, and at this juncture I know the Isles are up 1-0 on another goal by the reborn Bill Guerin, a hard-working goal that he shoveled in off the doorstep, fitting given the icy conditions on the Island tonight.

Let me tell you something -- having two kids, especially around the holidays is a LOT of work, and trying to watch every minute of every game is damn near impossible. But many of you know all about parenthood and also know it is all well worth the effort. Especially when my 5-year-old son yells, "LET'S go ISL-AND-ERS!" and then stomps his feet BUM, BUM, BUM-BUM-BUM.

Hopefully, he won't end up like this guy.

Anyway, back to the game, and are you like me and wonder why Gretzky is even coaching? You'd think that being the best player ever, and having won all those Cups and made all those millions, that he'd be happy in retirement with his kids and his super-hot wife, placing bets with Rick Tocchet and just enjoying life. And if he missed the game so much, he'd take some cushy front-office gig and just glad-hand people, and maybe coach his kid's youth team. Instead, he's struggling with the Coyotes of all teams, and you question whether he even likes coaching. I guess he does.

You wonder if maybe his kids just aren't into hockey -- maybe they're equestrians, or maybe they don't play sports at all and just play video games and text-message their friends while Gretzky says, "When I was your age my dad built me a backyard rink and ran me through drills and I stayed out there in the Canadian cold for hours and I LOVED it!" To which the kids respond, "Dad, we're playing Guitar Hero. Could you move away from the TV and get us some Cheetos?" Maybe that's why he's back.

You'd think he'd have a better gig then Phoenix. I know he lives in Arizona, but shouldn't he be coaching the Oilers? Or the Leafs? But what do I care -- he's a former Oiler and Ranger and I hope the Islanders stomp his team like narcs at a biker rally (thank you, Dennis Miller).

Seriously, back to the game and Marc-Andre Bergeron just scored on a sweet slap shot from the left circle and it's 2-0 Islanders in the third. Great work here, wasting no time setting up the play, and a great shot by Bergeron. That's what he's here to do.

Of course, the power play giveth and it taketh away. Phoenix scores a shorthanded goal, and that's been a serious flaw lately. You CANNOT give up those shorties, especially when your team is as offensively challenged as the Isles. This is a battle between the two lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, the Isles with a league-low 66 goals and the Coyotes just two better.

Hey now - the Islanders score again, and guess who? Guerin, playing with Comrie and Fedotenko again, puts it into an empty net with Ilya Bryzgalov down on the ice. Nice work by Fedotenko in the corner keeping the puck in play, where it finds Comrie cutting to the net. He slides it back through the front to Guerin, perfectly positioned. Great goal and it's 3-1 with 7:30 left in the third.

A few words about last night's 5-3 loss to the Sabres. The defensive breakdowns are killers, again especially when you can't score. But you liked the goals by Satan and Park, and hey, they did score three times! Sillinger's goal brought them all the way back to 4-3, but then Hecht's backhander between DiPietro's pads was the definition of a back-breaker. D.P should have had it and he knew it.

Phoenix on the power play and Kapanen scores, poking in a puck in the crease with just under four minutes left. Can't lose this game.

Coyotes showing some jump and DiPietro is stepping up, making a couple of nice saves as Phoenix presses for the equalizer. Then Gervais called for slashing behind the Islanders net with 1:17 remaining, Coyotes on the power play.

Nice save by DiPietro on a slapper by Jovo-Cop, and then he serves the puck into the Phoenix zone tennis-style. Phoenix with the empty net, good clear along the boards by Park, then D.P. makes another save -- then shoves Shane Doan, who shoves back and here we go! A scrum! Old-time hockey!

Then Jovo-Cop after things settle down nudges D.P., he pops him back and here we go again, with Witt looking to do some damage.

Just noticed that Ulf Samuellson is Gretzky's assistant coach - I'm hating this Phoenix team more and more.

Game over, Isles win, 3-2, DiPietro with 31 saves and a couple of left hooks for good measure. Two goals by Guerin. Maybe Saturday the Islanders can get four goals? Please, Santa?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Isles step up for Lighthouse Cup

We all know how much the Islanders do for the local community -- just check out their website -- but here's one you may not have heard about.

The annual Long Island high school ice hockey all-star game was the Vytra Cup, and it matched the best in Suffolk County against the top players from Nassau in a showdown on the Nassau Coliseum ice. Well, with little notice, Vytra pulled its sponsorship of the game, putting the annual event -- which is a tremendous opportunity for these kids -- in jeopardy.

The Islanders didn't allow that to happen, stepping in as the game's sponsor and renaming it the Lighthouse Cup. The game will be played on Monday, January 21 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) at 5 p.m., after the Islanders' 2 p.m. game against the Hurricanes. And the Islanders aren't just sponsoring the game, they are broadcasting it LIVE on their website on Islanders TV for anyone who can't make it in person.

That's a tremendous move by the Islanders to support Long Island hockey and give as many people as possible the chance to enjoy it. So why not take in a holiday matinee and stick around to see the best young players in Nassau and Suffolk face off? Now THAT's an afternoon of entertainment.

I'll of course be rooting for Suffolk, which will have my buddy Frank Pasquale of the Connetquot/Sayville T-Birds behind the bench.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 3, Lightning 2 (OT)

As goes Bill Guerin, so go the Islanders.

Certainly seems that way after Guerin's first goal in 16 games gave the Isles a 1-0 lead in a game that they eventually won in overtime, 3-2. Guerin had registered just one assist in his long scoring drought, which has coincided almost perfectly with the Islanders' current stretch of 18 games scoring three goals or less. We knew Guerin was going to be key to the team's success, but that's ridiculous.

Mike Sillinger netted the game-winner in OT, converting on the Isles' second power play of the overtime to snap their five-game losing streak. The power play played a significant role in the game in more ways than one. Both of Tampa's goals came with the man advantage and both were scored in the third period by Mike Richards, including one on a 5-on-3 late in the third that forced the OT. Andy Hilbert put the Islanders back on top, 2-1, after Richards' first goal.

Tampa's power play was ineffective in the first, with the Islanders missing out on not one but two shorthanded breakaways, one by Sillinger and another by Richard Park. Then in the second, Tampa had a 5-on-3 advantage where Richards broke in alone on Rick DiPietro, only to see D.P. come up huge (again). DiPietro finished with 32 saves and was called the Islanders' "best penaty killer" by Sillinger.

The win came one night after the Isles were blanked by Florida, 3-0. Tomas Vokoun made 25 saves but wasn't tested too much, which has been typical of the Islanders in this stretch of offensive mediocrity. DiPietro did his best to keep the team in the game, stopping Stephen Weiss on a penalty shot, but Weiss score two minutes later on a power play anyway.

The Isles' four-game road trip ends Wednesday night in Buffalo, followed Thursday by a home game against the Coyotes. Plenty of good seats available, for sure. Come on down!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Game recap: Thrashers 4, Islanders 3 (shootout)

Ted Nolan wasn't happy with getting a point on the road, and we shouldn't be either, even if the Islanders finally scored more than two goals.

Of course, it was only three, and that's 16 games now that the Isles haven't scored more than that. But hey, baby steps.

The power play this time not only wasn't terribly productive (although Trent Hunter's goal in the third did come on the man advantage, tying the score), it was COUNTER-productive to the extreme as the Thrashers scored TWO shorthanded goals in the second period. Just awful.

The second shorty was the third straight goal by Atlanta, which erased a 1-0 deficit to go up 3-1. On the bright side, the Isles didn't fold on the road and battled back on goals by Sillinger and Hunter.

Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the shootout for the Thrashers while Guerin and Satan failed for the Isles. DiPietro complained to the officials about Kozlov's hesitation move, claiming he skated a step back, which is against the rules. No matter - goal.

On a side note, the Thrashers' home sweaters are absolutely terrible, with ATLANTA down the left sleeve. Whoever designed that would certainly get an "auf weidersehen" from Keidi Klum on 'Project Runway.' (My wife watches the show. I watch for Heidi.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

LIVEBLOG: Bruins 3, Islanders 1

Another liveblog from the Coliseum to see if the Isles can bounce back against Boston. Jeff Tambellini was brought up from Bridgeport to inject some life into a moribund offense. Tambellini has seven goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the Sound Tigers and will play tonight with Mike Comrie and Miro Satan.

Ted Nolan stated before the season that Tambellini wasn't the kind of player who is suited for toiling on the fourth line, and if he was to play with the big club he'd have to produce. Well, Jeff, welcome to the first line. And score some goals, will ya?

Fedotenko will skate with Vasicek and Guerin while Bergenheim plays with Sillinger and Hunter, with Park-Simon-Hilbert rounding out a forward set that needs to get on the board three times tonight. Is that too much to ask?

Also of note, Bruno Gervais is a healthy scratch tonight as the Isles go with the traditional six defensemen. Berard and Bergeron will both be out there tonight. Again, it's about goals.

If you're wondering why no post after the 4-0 loss to the Thrashers, I also ask - why? What's the point? That was ug-leeeee. Let's forget it ever happened.

Tambellini gets involved early with a big hit and has a couple of looks. Interesting to see Zdeno Chara not only wearing Larry Bird's number 33 for Boston on the Coliseum ice, but also wearing the captain's C. It got me thinking, how many former Islanders are currently captains in the NHL? That'll give me something to do between periods.

Comrie gets a golden opportunity with 5:09 left in the first on the doorstep with Tim Thomas down, but he can't lift it into the goal. One goal isn't going to do it tonight, fellas!

Isles on the power play, Jeremy Reich gets the gate for tripping. That's Reich as in "reach out and trip him" and not Reich as in "Third Reich." Thank goodness for him. One good chance on a shot from the slot but otherwise, that power play went by in a hurry.

DiPietro keeps it 1-0 with two good stops on Chuck Kobasew right in front in the final minute. End of one, Bruins up 1-0, Isles outshooting the B's 11-8.

Answer to our first period trivia question - two former Islanders are currently captains on their respective NHL teams - Chara and Olli Jokinen of the Florida Panthers. Those were the two guys I knew of off the top of my head, and that's all there is. I did look up every roster on to double-check. That's the kind of effort you'll get from this blogger. It's the J.T. way.

By the way, as bad as the Isles have been on offense, has ANYONE lamented the absence of Alexei Yashin? Didn't think so.

My Blog Box neighbor Jim McGlynn and I talked a bit about the Isles' scoring woes between periods, and though the team has treaded water in the last 11 games, playing .500 it is a slippery slope and if they don't snap out of it, you get the sense it could all go downhill. The presence of DiPietro has prevented that so far, but how long can that last?

Isles on the power play again and the snakebitteness (Is that even a word? It is now) continues. Bergeron blasts a shot wide right (hit the net, please) and then Satan is absolutely STONED at the right post by a Thomas pad save off a rebound of a Berard shot from the point. DAMN! No goals.

Boston with a chance at the post but D.P. covers up. Hard to believe that a two-goal deficit would be such a big hill to climb. But it is. And it is sad.

It continues - Satan passes up to Vasicek in front to Fedotenko with the net open at the left post - WIDE! You get the feeling that when the Isles finally score this place is going to explode like it did when Tonelli fed Nystrom. Except with about 6,000 less people. You get the idea.

I've mentioned in the blog before that when the horn sounds here, the frequency of vibration makes my iBook freeze for a couple of seconds while it's blaring, and sometimes I think the next one is going to fry it for good. But if that's what it takes to get this team to score a lousy goal, I'm willing to sacrifice the laptop. I'll take one for the team.

The game has settled into a mode where, if I were watching at home on the DVR, I'd be watching it on the first fast-forward setting.

Isles kill a penalty with Hunter in the box, then Witt tries to wake up his mates by drilling Kobasew into the boards. It doesn't work. Bruins go up 2-0 moments later when Petteri Nokelainen steps in on a breakaway after a miscue by Sutton and beats DiPietro high on the stick side with under two minutes left in the second. Islanders, meet the two-goal mountain.

Isles get a power play chance with 47 seconds left in the period when Marco Sturm goes off. Bergeron breaks his blade on a shot from the point. Hunter fires wide from a low angle. End of two, 2-0 Boston, and based on recent history, you can beat the traffic and not miss a comeback. I hope I'm wrong.

Keeping you informed: The difference between nachos grande and the nachos with cheese: salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. That's a dollar well-spent.

Start of the third, Isles with 1:13 left on the power play. Twenty minutes of desperation to follow. Nothing doing on those 73 seconds, and it's come to this - fans are chanting "Score-a-goal." You forgot to say please, folks.

Isles kill a penalty, then Glen Metropolit (no 'an') gets two for hooking. Satan gets a shot blocked, Bruins clear, then clear again with 40 ticks left on the advantage. Thomas stops Fedotenko, Sutton's shot is blocked - PP ends and the booing begins.

Satan gets hauled down on a break by Andrew Alberts - no penalty shot called. You hate to say 'this is it,' with 11:18 left, but... I think it is. HUGE power play here.

Fedotenko rebound deflected over the net by Thomas, then Sillinger is stopped from the slot with 12 seconds left in the advantage. More booing. The power play continues to be utterly lifeless.

Of course, moments later Sillinger is called for slashing as the Bruins push into the Islanders zone. If two goals is a mountain, what's three? Everest? A black hole? The Mariana Trench?

Hilbert gets called for delay of game for knocking the puck into the crowd, and now the Isles are down two men. Doesn't there have to be a shred of intent there? He flailed at the puck and got lucky to connect - or unlucky, to be exact. Horrible.

Isles kill the disadvantages but time is short, less than five to play.

Frustration: Hunter is called for roughing, well behind the play with 3:34 left. Eight seconds later, Kobasew converts and it's 3-0. Goodnight, everybody! Drive home safely.

Hang on... Chris Campoli scores from the point through a screen with 1:51 remaining, a POWER PLAY goal that finds the top left corner. That makes it 3-1 and snaps the scoreless streak at 140 minutes and 12 seconds.

Rangers blanked by Carolina, by the way, 4-0. Hey, it's something.

Empty net, Hunter stopped and Comrie has it ON HIS STICK in front, net open, can't get a handle on it. Eighteen seconds left. And so it goes. Twelve games now without scoring more than two goals in any game, and the Isles are 5-6 with an overtime loss in that span.

Boston's win is its first at the Coliseum in 11 games, since December, 2001. Congrats.


What's wrong with the offense? A lot. It just comes down to being more hungry. We're OK, but OK doesn't cut it. We did have our chances but they're coming when the goaltender is seeing the puck.

Nothing seemed to work today but there's always tomorrow. We just have to keep working at it. Just have to find a way and stick together.

We had some jump [early] but didn't capitalize.

ON SUTTON'S MISCUE THAT LED TO BOSTON'S SECOND GOAL: Everything becomes more magnified. Every time you lose, those things happen.

ON THE UPCOMING ROAD TRIP: Maybe the road is a good thing for us to have some meals together and be together. We can't let frustration get the better of us. It's a long year and a lot of teams go through spurts like this.

ON TAMBELLINI: He added some speed to us. He gave us some grit along the boards. He did what we asked him to do.

(Nolan added that Gervais' scratch was partly being the odd man out and partly because he is banged up, but added that he will be back in the lineup.)

ON BERGENHEIM GETTING EXTRA TIME: His effort is always there. What he gives us is what we are looking for.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Game recap: Rangers 4, Islanders 2

Eleven games and counting where the Islanders have scored no more than twice. Remarkably, they are 5-5 with an overtime loss in that stretch, which says a lot about the defense and the play of Rick DiPietro. But you wonder how much longer the team can tread water when a third goal by the opposition equals a loss.

You kind of knew beating the Rangers would be tough one night after a big win over the Senators. Toss in the fact that the game was at the Garden, and that the Rangers were supremely motivated to win after dropping the first three meetings of the season. Sure enough, they jumped out on top on a goal by Jaromir Jagr. Miro Satan got the equalizer early in the second, but two more goals by the Rangers threatened to blow the game open. Mike Comrie's wrister late in the second got the Isles within one again -- but that also meant they had reached their goal quota for the game.

Again, the power play (can we really call it that any more) was a major culprit, going scoreless in four chances, including a 29-second, 5-on-3 advantage in the first.

We mentioned it in one of the early blog posts this season, but the Islanders just don't have that one scorer who scares you, or who can carry a team when they need it. So you figure if Garth Snow has a Christmas list, a sniper is at the top.

The ugliness came courtesy of Ryan Hollweg, who showed again how classless he is by threatening to rip open the fresh stitches in Radek Martinek's face. Martinek caught a skate blade the night before, but played with 15 stitches nonetheless. Of course, Hollweg saw the wound as a target, and displayed his intelligence by telling Martinek he would rip them open when they met in scrum along the boards.

When Simon slashed Hollweg in the face, it was a bad split-second decision by a player who has always been highly regarded by his teammates. Hollweg, however, thinks about his violence before inflicting it, and is as much of a lowlife as anyone in the league. If the NHL is serious about protecting its players (and some of Colin Campbell's "punishments" make you wonder), it will sit Hollweg for a few games.

Not that it would make much of a difference to Hollweg.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 3, Senators 2 (OT)

There are games over the course of the season that are measuring-stick games, and this was one of them for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Senators are one of the best -- if not THE best - teams in the NHL, and they have absolutely owned the Islanders, winning the last eight games between the clubs.

Not this time. Thanks to tremendous goaltending by Rick DiPietro and terrific efforts from players like Mike Sillinger, Richard Park, Josef Vasicek and Bill Guerin, the Islanders overcame two fluky goals by Andres Meszaros of all people and came away with a 3-2 shootout victory Wednesday night at the Coliseum, before another disappointing crowd of just over 9,200.

Maybe the Isles' dismal recent history against the recently-cold Senators kept fans from coming to the barn, but past performance is no guarantee of future earnings. The Islanders came to play in a hard-hitting, tightly-played game that featured yet another standout performance by DiPietro, who's certainly playing up to his contract now, isn't he? D.P. made 35 stops in the first 65 minutes, includes a few of the WOW variety, and then came up huge in the shootout. He made the final stop on Dean McAmmond look easy, moments after Sillinger beat Ray Emery for what proved to be the game-winner. Guerin scored the first shootout goal for the Isles on their third shot, after Ottawa had put one in off the stick of Daniel Alfredsson.

The Isles continue to live dangerously. This was the 11th game in the last 12 decided by one goal, and the ninth straight game where the Islanders scored two or fewer goals (shootouts notwithstanding). When the margin for error is that thin, you're going to get burned by goals like Meszaros' second, which deflected off Park. But give the Isles credit for not letting the second point get away from them, as happened the game prior against Dallas. Fun fact - the Isles are now 11-1 against Eastern Conference teams who made the playoffs last season.

We'll see how much the Isles have left in the tank when they play the Rangers at the Garden Thursday night. One player who won't enjoy that game is Sean Avery, who's injured -- again, what a fragile flower he is -- having just had wrist surgery. Get well soon, big guy. We'll miss you. And say hi to Mary-Kate (or is it Ashley?) - we always get them confused.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Game recap: Stars 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

You should never be happy to simply get a point with a tie at home. Never. Well, almost never.

When the opponent is on a five-game winning streak and is one of the best teams in its conference, then sometimes you take what you can get and that's what the Islanders are saying after dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime Monday night against the Dallas Stars, who won their sixth in a row. Mike Modano scored twice for the Stars, including the game-winner just 38 seconds into the OT.

It looked like the Isles were going to walk away with nothing after Jeff Halpern broke a 1-1 tie with six minutes left in the third on a fluky goal. Halpern was standing all alone to Rick DiPietro's right and Sergei Zubov should have passed him the puck. Instead, Zubov let go with a wrist shot -- which of course deflected off Mike Sillinger and directly to Halpern, who knocked it into the open side of the net.

The Islanders immediately blew a power play opportunity, stretching their man-up futility streak to 1-for-29, but they were given one more power play chance in the final minutes. This time, Miro Satan got to a rebound and put it home to send the game into the extra session.

Another bad bounce killed the Isles in OT when a deflected puck landed right on the stick of a charging Modano. As Ted Nolan lamented afterwards, "the puck went right to one of the most skilled guys in the league." And so it goes.

We liked Richard Park beating Marty Turco to a loose puck and putting it into a empty net for a shortie. That's Park for you. We also liked DiPietro's 28 saves.

We didn't like all the whistles against the Isles for obstruction - five penalties, three against Bill Guerin for hooking, holding and tripping (oh, my!). The referees were Dave Jackson and Dean Morton. I know, who? Also a pathetic turnout of under 9,000 for the game. Not unusual for a non-conference game, but still weak.

Marc-Andre Bergeron was the seventh defenseman as Nolan rolled three forward lines. I'm not a big fan of the seven d-men and you wonder when Bergeron will be dealt. WIth Berard getting a regular shift, MAB is the odd man out.

Oddly enough, the Stars are now just 1-5-0-1 against the Isles over the last 6 1/2 years. Another interesting factoid - the game featured three U.S.-born players who were drafted No. 1 in Modano, DiPietro and Bryan Berard.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Doubleheader recap: Isles vs. Bruins

On the plus side, it's nice to know players like Andy Hilbert and Richard Park - who will never be confused with Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier - can step up and score a goal when the team needs it. On the negative side, you know things are going bad offensively when the team needs a couple of grinders to give it a boost.

But a win is a win, and when it comes in front of a full house like it did Saturday night, all the better. The 2-1 win over Boston salvaged a split against the Bruins and stopped a two-game losing streak from growing any larger. What continued was the Islanders' habit of keeping it close. Since shutting out the Lightning, 4-0, the Isles have played 10 games and nine of them have been decided by one goal.

The Tums concession has never been more popular.

Friday's loss was lackluster - maybe the L-tryptophan hadn't left the players' systems after Thanksgiving. The Isles fell behind 2-0 before Mike Sillinger scored on a redirection.

What killed the Islanders was futility on the power play, a common theme lately. They blew a two-man advantage early in the third and had another opportunity wasted late in the period when they were desperate to tie the game.

After getting off to a strong start, the power play is 1-for-26 over the last seven games. Marc-Andre Bergeron, a healthy scratch in the last five games, was on the ice Saturday but couldn't spark the unit.

Not that the Islanders weren't getting chances - they outshout the B's 12-2 in the first and 23-7 through two periods. But even when the Isles are outshooting their opponents these days, it's not the quantity but the quality of the shots that are lacking.

Rick DiPietro had an eventful game, making 20 saves and getting an assist (with Sillinger) on Hilbert's goal. He was also whacked in the head in the final five minutes but stayed in the game.

In other news, Newsday reports that Shawn Bates may finally be ready to rejoin the club, which is good news for his fans and the team. Maybe he can be the spark that gets the offense going.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Game recap: Canadiens 4, Islanders 1

I'm in a holiday mood, so I'll pass on breaking down Wednesday night's dismal effort against Montreal, only to say that the Isles were flatter than Hempstead Turnpike. You can't win every home game and you're gonna have nights like this, but you should beat Montreal.

Instead, I have a question for Cablevision and Fox Sports NY:

I live on Long Island. I also have an HDTV, and I enjoy the high-def programming that Optimum delivers, particularly sports and especially the Islanders.

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I discovered that the Islanders-Canadiens game - broadcast by Fox Sports NY - had been relegated to C-SPAN2 (channel 79), and was NOT available on ANY of the high-def channels. WTF?

This was an Islanders HOME game. Instead, the Devils were on regular Fox Sports NY and on FSNHD. Couldn't Fox Sports have broadcast the Islanders game in HD, with Cablevision putting it on MSGHD (the Rangers were on the road and not in HD) or on Mojo 701 or one of the other less-popular HD channels?

As a Long Island cable subscriber, I expect MY LOCAL TEAM to be in HD, not a team from New Jersey. And if you want to blame FSNY, fine -- ALL home games should be broadcast in HD, even when two teams are on at the same time.

Utterly ridiculous. I ended up watching the game on a 19-inch set in my office because I can't stomach watching a game that should be in HD on an HD set when it's not in HD.

The question is why FSNY chose to broadcast the Devils in HD and not the Islanders, and you get the sense that this is always the way it is going to be. Don't tell me the Devils attract more viewers. People in New Jersey don't care about the Devils. And if there is a difference, it has to be negligible. Either broadcast all games in HD and have the cable companies find a home for them (which they can) or alternate between the teams so one fan base doesn't get screwed.

I think we're going to be screwed. We'll see.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 2, Rangers 1

In my post from the last Islanders-Rangers game I said that we needed an answer chant for the Potvin cheer, but you know what? We have one:

YOU CAN'T BEAT US! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) YOU CAN'T BEAT US!

That works for me.

Monday night's 2-1 victory over the Rangers makes the Islanders 9-1-2 in their last dozen games against the Blueshirts, so you could say Ted Nolan has Tom Renney's number. And to all the Rangers fans who added 'SUCKS!' after the 'D.P.!' chant at the Coliseum, suck on this: Rick is 3-0 against the Rangers this season, with four goals allowed. What's that? Yeah, I thought so.

Monday's win was also the seventh straight one-goal game for the Islanders, which is an NHL record. But that's the way this team wins. DiPietro said in the postgame that the win was "a good road win," and that winning the close ones was "the kind of identity we want to create."

You could argue the converse that all these one-goal games shows how little margin for error the Islanders have, and that there will be a stretch where the decisions go the other way. But you could also say that playing in so many nail-biters will prove to be invaluable experience come playoff time.

Yeah, I said it. We're just a quarter through the season, but it's clear that this is a playoff team, and by the looks of it, is a team that few will want to face in a short series. It's tough, has great goaltending, and won't blink when the pressure is on.

The Rangers were hot coming into the game, winners of five straight, but you wouldn't know it by the result. Sure, the Rangers came out hitting, but Jagr, Gomez and Drury were awfully quiet, a testimony to the defensive play of guys like Witt and Martinek, who were solid all night.

Once again, the newcomers provided the offense, with Fedotenko scoring on a perfectly executed set play eight seconds into the second period off a face-off. And Vasicek was all over the place, roofing a wicked wrister for a 2-0 lead, and later stepping into the face of Orr in defense of his teammate.

You didn't like the shorthanded goal that cut the gap to 2-1, but there was precious little to complain about tonight. The Rangers had just 19 shots on goal, with few second-chance opportunities, which was a huge help to DiPietro. All in all, a tremendous win coupled with the shutout over the Devils.

Game recap: Islanders 1, Devils 0

Martin who?

Rick DiPietro's shutout of the Devils Friday night was just what the doctor ordered for a team that had lost two straight. Sure, the losses were close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as Col. Sherman T. Potter once said, and the Islanders were looking at a three-game skid if Martin Brodeur was able to win his 500th career game playing at home.

But DiPietro was stellar, stopping 26 shots but also playing smart and displaying a growing maturity that Ted Nolan didn't hesitate to mention in his postgame comments. This team is built around DiPietro and needs him to be the kind of netminder that teams hate to face and he is playing that way so far this season. His biggest save may have been when he stoned Patrik Elias in the final minutes.

And how 'bout that Josef Vasicek? The shorthanded goal against the Devils was a thing of beauty. You only get a chance to deke the goalie that many times when you're practicing one-on-nones in the driveway, but Vasicek came through, thanks to a godawful turnover. Hard to believe, with his size and skills, that Vasicek has been a career third- or fourth-line player. If he's blooming late, we're glad he's blooming here.

Another solid game from Chris Campoli, and Trent Hunter also played big, drawing comparison's to John Tonelli from Jiggs McDonald on the play-by-play. When Jiggs compares you to J.T., you know you're doing something right.

You kind of feel sorry for Brent Sutter. He looks like his head is going to explode one of these games.

Up next, the Rangers at MSG Monday night. Think Sean Avery will get into a pre-game scrap with Brendan Witt? We can only hope.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Game recap: Penguins 3, Islanders 2

Just when the Islanders could use a day off - and they've had more than their share so far - there's none to be found. Instead, the Islanders get to visit the Devils and Martin Brodeur, who not only has beaten the Isles 38 times with 10 shutouts, but is going for career win No. 500. It's his third shot at the mark, and it's at home against a team he has pretty much owned.

Good luck, fellas.

The Islanders head to Jersey fresh off another close loss, this one a 3-2 defeat against the Penguins at the Igloo. The Isles battled back to tie the game in the second period after being down a goal, but lost the lead for good when Sidney Crosby picked Brendan Witt's pocket and fed a perfect feed to Georges Laracque of all people, who roofed it for a 3-2 Pens lead. The third period was scoreless.

Bryan Berard, back on the blueline, lamented after the game that this was one that the Islanders should have had, which was pretty much the feeling after the loss to the Flyers on Monday night. But the Isles managed only one shot on two power play attempts, while the Pens had six man-up advantages, scoring once. The Isles are now 2-4 on the road.

Mike Comrie and Josef Vasicek scored for the Isles and they're tied to the team lead in goals at six. Comrie deflected a shot by Witt and Vasicek made a terrific play after winning a faceoff in the Pens' end, drifting behind the defense to get in position for what was a game-tying goal.

Now, the Islanders will try and break out of its offensive rut against the Devils and Brodeur. True, the Devils and Brodeur himself have struggled thus far, but this will be a tough game. A win for the Isles here would be huge.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More than just a new arena

Make no mistake about it - the future of the Islanders as a professional hockey team on Long Island is firmly tied to the proposal that Charles Wang and development partner Scott Rechler filed with the Town of Hempstead on Tuesday. And as an Islanders fan, nothing is more important.

Not the power play. Not the penalty kill. Not the line combinations. Not the progress of top prospect Kyle Okposo. Not the quality of the cheesesteaks or the nachos sold at the Coliseum (although based on the renderings of the renovated arena, you'd hope the concession fare would improve dramatically as well).

The Islanders have been playing in what is easily the National Hockey League's worst venue for years. It is the league's third-oldest arena and has the smallest seating capacity. Every attempt the team has made to either build a new arena or extricate itself from the heinous lease agreement the team has with Spectacor Management Group -- signed by former owner John Pickett in what is unanimously regarded as a colossal blunder -- has been thwarted. Now, there is a plan in place to change all that, and while Wang and Rechler may not get everything they want in their multi-phase proposal -- and there will be many questions to answer, particularly regarding traffic -- the Coliseum phase of the project needs to be approved if the Islanders are to remain, as we all are, Islanders.

If memories were all an arena required to make it successful, then the Coliseum would be the Taj Mahal of the NHL. And when the barn is packed it is an intimidating place to play. But the squat, outdated structure has been obsolete for years, plagued by physical problems and space issues, not to mention rats and cockroaches that GM Garth Snow joked "are so old they have Stanley Cup rings." Anyone who has tried to navigate the concourse between periods knows all about the arena's faults. And walking across the vast, windswept parking lot in the dead of winter is like traversing the Siberian steppes.

Maybe the arena isn't why free agents have been reportedly reluctant to sign with the team, but combined with the crippling lease agreement, the Islanders need to be as frugal as they can, even with the league's new collective bargaining agreement in place. Wang is reportedly losing $15 million to $20 million a year on the team, and while he is invested in Long Island in multiple ways -- never mind the fact that he's made it his home for 55 years -- it should be obvious that no one is going to stand for losing that kind of money for long. And he shouldn't be expected to.

Certainly, Wang and Rechler have a wide-ranging proposal on the table that should make the both of them quite a lot of money in the long run. It's far beyond just a new home for the Islanders. But they're not the only ones interested in remaking the parcel of land off Hempstead Turnpike. Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi has said that the lot is the centerpiece of a "new suburbia," one that would feature smart development and less of a reliance on driving and more public transportation. It's a very valuable piece of property with tremendous potential, but making the project a reality will require endless cajoling, negotiations, public input and good, old-fashioned shmoozing. Thankfully, it seems a new 99-year lease agreement would be part of the deal if it is approved, one that should be much more friendly to the team.

So what should you do as an Islanders fan? If you live in Nassau County, get involved. Talk to your local legislator, attend public meetings, ask questions, take advantage of public comment. Make it clear to the power that be that the Islanders are important to you and extremely important not only to the town and the county but to Long Island itself. The team is part of our identity, and if we want them to stay then a new arena is absolutely required.

Of course, no one seems to argue the point. But getting there has been impossible. There's been talk of a new arena for years. Wang's original plan for a 60-story "Lighthouse" tower was shot down almost immediately. And while the process has dragged on, the Islanders and their fans have had to put up with the Coliseum and all its quirks and problems.

Hopefully, that is all coming to an end soon. If all goes well -- I'm not holding my breath, but we can dream, can't we? -- the new arena would open in 2010. And we fans will finally enjoy what Devils fans are enjoying now, a new arena worthy of the four Stanley Cup banners hanging in its rafters.

The alternative is too depressing to even consider. And if you need convincing, there's one sure method.

Call a Hartford Whalers fan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Game recap: Flyers 3, Islanders 2

Tough to get too upset about this loss, coming as it did on the road against a first-place team that is unbeaten at home, but this was a game that the Islanders could have -- and perhaps, SHOULD have -- won, and so it was indeed frustrating.

You hate to see the power play not only go 0-for-4 but allow a game-winning, shorthanded goal in the third period. That Mike Richards scored the winner should be not surprise as he now has three shorties already this season, but there's no way he should have been allowed to net his own rebound.

Give the Flyers credit for blocking 22 shots in the game. The Isles outshot Philly, 26-17, so the chances were there. The Isles just couldn't take advantage of them. Nice goal by Simon crashing the net, and Sillinger scored his second of the season on a backhand.

Bill Guerin missed the game after being hit in the eye with a puck against the Devils. Guerin has hyphema, or bleeding in the eye, and is listed as day-to-day. He is questionable for Thursday's game against the Penguins. Sean Bergenheim was recalled from Bridgeport to take Guerin's spot in the lineup.

The Islanders have shown they can win at home, going 5-1 on the recent homestand and 7-2 at the Coliseum overall. The Flyers game was the first of four on the road, and the Isles look to improve on their 2-3 road mark.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 2, Devils 1

You know who must be feeling pretty good these days? Garth Snow.

I know, it's early, but let's give the guy some props. The Islanders are 9-4 with 18 points, just two points behind the first-place Flyers and one behind the Rangers (who they've beaten twice) despite playing three and four fewer games than those teams, respectively. His off-season acquisitions have pretty much all played very well - Guerin, Vasicek, Comrie and Fedotenko chief among them.

Snow took a lot of heat as he watched an exodus take place and then fill the void with players who were less than no-brainers. But you could see now that the man had a plan, one that coach Ted Nolan shares in completely. Nolan talks a lot about 'character guys' and the Isles have them in spades, and all the preseason talk about how tightly-knit the team was in training camp wasn't just smoke. This group has come together quickly and it works hard, and so far it has paid off.

It helps when you have someone like Rick DiPietro in the net, and Saturday night D.P. was outstanding, making 20 saves in the 2-1 win over the Devils. DiPietro and Martin Brodeur staged quite a duel, but in the end it was Miroslav Satan -- again -- who came up big with the game-winning goal.

It was a thing of beauty and came on a 5-on-3 power play in the third. With the crowd hollering for the Islanders to SHOOOOOOOOT (I never understood that -- these guys know what they're doing, let them work the advantage, please) Chris Campoli (2 assists) threw the puck down to Trent Hunter at the lower left circle, and Hunter fired a perfect pass through the crease to Satan at the right post. I've run that play many times in dome hockey, with similarly successful results.

It got a little hairy at the end as the Isles missed two good chances to put the game away with the net empty, and sure enough the Devils came too close for comfort in the final 20 seconds, but DiPietro held strong. The win gave the Islanders a 5-1 homestand, and that's what you like to see - a team that plays big at home. And with 15,000-plus on hand, that helps, too.

Fun fact learned on the broadcast: the Isles' Ben Walter is the son of NHL standout Ryan Walter, who played 15 seasons, mostly with the Capitals and Canadiens. He scored 38 goals and had 49 assists for the Caps in 1981-82, and yet Washington still traded him to Montreal, where he eventually won a Cup. The Caps did get Rod Langway in the deal, though.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

LIVEBLOG: Islanders 3, Rangers 2

Lots of juice for tonight's game, with both teams coming in hot; the Isles winners of four of their last five, the Rangers off a 5-1 homestand and playing stingy defense with their effective if not so entertaining trap. Also plenty of rough stuff expected on and off the ice. Fellow bloggers Tom Liodice and Mike Carey have set the over-under for fights in the stands at five. I'm taking the over.

This is actually the first Islanders-Rangers game I've been to in person in a couple of years and the place is rocking already as we await the puck to drop. Always depressing to see so many opposing jerseys in the crowd for a home game but that's the Isles' lot in life, so we deal with it. Still sucks, though.

Sillinger, Hilbert and Guerin out for the faceoff and here we go!

D.P. in goal to everyone's relief, and the Rangers are buzzing him early. Comrie with a chance for the Isles but can't keep the puck on his stick.

Almost five minutes in and we're still waiting for the first big hit - Hilbert almost had one on Staal but didn't get all of him. Comrie again in the middle of it, can't slide the puck across to Fedotenko, then D.P. stones Nigel Dawes - the pace is picking up. The teams at one point played six minutes without a whistle.

Just heard the first Potvin chant, in our own building. Inevitable, but it still hurts. I know we have the revised, anti-Ranger "When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" chant, but that one isn't enough for me. And the chicken dance is too obvious (plus, there's too much to explain to my 5-year-old). We need to come up with something a little sharper. There's your homework for tonight.

By the way, the Ice Girls just cleared the slush away from Henrik Lundqvist's crease without incident. Nice to see Henrik's grown as a person.

DiPietro stops Hossa in close with under 6 minutes left. Give the Rangers the edge in period one - they've had more of a presence in the offensive end and their chances have been more dangerous. Of course, as I type that Guerin has two good chances with around 3 minutes left. Then Comrie - again, in the middle of things - passes to Hunter in the left circle, he dekes but can't get it past Lundqvist with 2:13 on the clock.

Sutton takes a run at Prucha and just misses, so of course Prucha answers by boarding Richard Park with 1:26 left, Isles on the power play. Staal flattens Campoli on the far boards, period ends scoreless. Call round one a draw, with the two teams even on points with no knockdowns.

Second period about to start - here's something fun: Guy sitting in front of me has an Avery jersey. Guy in front of him has a DiPietro sweater on, holding up a sign that says, "Avery, you suck!"

Speaking of Mr. Olsen Twin, someone needs to tell him that stickhandling is not his forte. He ragged the puck from center ice, back into his own zone, looking ... looking, before dropping a backhand pass to no one that Sillinger picked off. No goal by the Isles, though.

Good chance by Ben Walter on the backhand, high shot hits Lundqvist in the shoulder. Then Sillinger another high shot stopped ... Witt levels Dawes in the Isles end, starts a break the other way but Comrie holds onto the puck through the high slot and can't get a good shot off. Pace hasn't changed from the first.

By the way, there's a certain free agent acquisition on the visitors who hasn't made much of an impression so far. Don't want to mention him by name as that would be a sure jinx, but he played last year across the river in the land of the Sopranos. Hope that narrows it down for you.

Scramble in front, D.P. covers the puck and there's shoving. We're seeing a bit more of that as the game goes on. By the way, that's recent Bridgeport call-up Tim Jackman, not Hugh, playing on the line with Simon and Walter. He has a chance in the crease but can't push it under Lundqvist.

Fedotenko called for tripping - dubious. Sure enough, Chris Drury scores with the man advantage, going five-hole on a slap shot from the left point off a pass from Mara. 1-0 Rangers. (I was thinking that Drury hadn't done much, either - then he scores.)

Jagr left alone in the circle on a 3-on-3 and the Rangers almost take a two-goal lead. Guernin veered off him - a mistake. Have to be aware of where Jagr is at all times.

Third period, Isles down by one. The Rangers played a tough game last night so you'd think the Isles would be the fresher team. First altercation of the night finally happened up in section 338, and we have an ejection. The under is looking good right now, but there's plenty of time left. I'm sitting tight with the over.

Hunter scores to tie it, his fourth goal of the season. Nice play by Fedotenko breaking in down the left wing, then sliding the puck to Hunter in the right circle, converting at the 1:11 mark. New ballgame, people. Satan with a good chance moments later, but Staal covers the open side of the net and blocks it.

Rangers answer, Jagr dishing to Dubinski at the right post but DiPietro drags the left pad and smothers it. But the Rangers regain the lead when Avery (damn) makes a nice pass to Mara, who snuck in from the point and was alone on the doorstep to deflect it past DiPietro. Jackman called for hooking at 5:54, and the Rangers best chance to add to the lead occurs when Jagr finds Drury for another slapper - D.P. gets a piece of it, then blocks a second chance at the right post.

Isles kill it - then Sutton is whistled for interference while Prucha is called for holding. Four-on-four action! Not for long - Girardi (not Joe, Dan) gets the box for high-sticking - four-on-three!

Comrie -- is he involved in EVERY scoring chance? -- holds the puck, drifting through the slot, then finds a wide-open Fedotenko, who just buries it. It's 2-2, a new game again.

DiPietro with the touchdown pass to Sillinger at the opposite blue line, he doesn't score. Can't see a damn thing since everyone is standing in front of me and Fedotenko's mug is on the big screen as his goal is announced. I guess Lundqvist made the stop. Wild.

SATAN! Isles take the lead! Vasicek starts the play by stealing the puck from Girardi and moving in for a shot. Isles keep it in and Satan is open in the high slot, and he fires a wrister that finds the top left corner. Great shot by Satan, who is really heating up. (FYI - two more fights in the stands in the last few minutes. It's getting testy up there.)

More fun blog facts - when the horn sounds after a goal, it's so loud my laptop freezes up for a second or two.

DiPietro stellar - stops Drury, then Dawes in front, then deflects the puck from Strudwick in the goalmouth with just over three minutes left. Rangers fans can yell "Suck!" all they want after the D.P. chant - he just came up HUGE.

Oszival called for holding with 2:05 left and even though the Isles are at home I'm half-expecting the make-up call. Isles work most of the advantage in the Rangers zone, but then with the goalie pulled and Jagr behind the net, Hunter is called for a penalty with 18.8 seconds left. Can't call it a make-up call, though.

Final chance for Rangers - the shot from the point by Drury goes wide, and that's it - YOUR FINAL SCORE: Islanders 3, Rangers 2.

Isles improve to 8-4 on the season and are now tied for first place in the division with the Flyers, with another divisional home game Saturday against the Devils.


Tim Jackman

ON WHAT NOLAN TOLD THE TEAM BEFORE THE THIRD PERIOD: Just keep to our game plan and keep working hard. I was in the trainer's room getting stitched up, though, so I missed most of it. (Jackman had a nasty gash below his right eye)

ON PLAYING IN AN ISLANDERS-RANGERS GAME: Unbelievable atmosphere out there. The fans were into it. A great experience.

ON FORCING THE ISSUE AGAINST A TEAM THAT HAD PLAYED THE NIGHT BEFORE: The key thing was to get the puck deep in their end and make them work. It takes three periods. I thought we played well and it was a great win.

ON PLAYING THE FOURTH LINE WITH SIMON AND BEN WALTER: I thought we played well. I played with Simon a couple of exhibition games, so I think we were on the same page.

Jackman added that he was told Monday afternoon that he'd be playing on the big club.

Ted Nolan

I thought we played a real strong game going into the third period. Ricky certainly made some big, big saves for us. But this was a total team effort.

We wanted to roll four lines and see what happens. The fourth line played real well tonight. This is a really good character-type of team.

ON SATAN: The last couple of games, he's hot. And it's a good time now because we get to play a lot. We have three lines that can pop some goals in for us.

The biggest play was when Ricky shut the door with a 3-2 lead.

ON WALTER AND JACKMAN: Both of those guys deserved an opportunity and they're taking advantage of it.

ON HUNTER: He may not have a letter on his shoulder, but he's definitely one of our leaders.

ON THE TEAM'S MAKEUP: Garth did a tremendous job getting some character guys over the summer ... So far, so good.

Game preview: Rangers at Islanders

A couple of things before the Islanders go for their third straight victory and fifth in their last six a few hours from now at the Coliseum:

Rick DiPietro will start tonight, according to Greg Logan's Newsday blog post earlier today. DiPietro dodged a bullet with that high stick Saturday night, and it will be good to see him between the pipes tonight.

The Rangers are coming off a 2-0 shutout victory over the Flyers last night, giving them a 5-1 homestand that saw Henrik Lundqvist allow just two goals. He is red-hot, with four shutouts already, and the Rangers PK has killed 22 straight man-down situations.

Everybody's pal Sean Avery is back with the Blueshirts and dropped his gloves in the first minute of the Philly game. Although the first Isles-Rangers meeting was fairly quiet, expect the presence of Avery - not to mention Hollweg and Simon - to yield some fisticuffs before the night is through.

A message to Avery: Mary-Kate Olsen? Talk about trading down. Going from Elisha Cuthbert to Olsen could give you the bends, it's that deep a drop. Meanwhile, may be at the barn tonight given the chance that Olsen and Mike Comrie's squeeze, Hillary Duff, could be in the same building. Imagine that - the Nassau Coliseum, paparazzi paradise.

Also, a word about the Jim Baumbach item in Newsday - Chris Botta is absolutely right. That was pure drivel and completely pointless. Baumbach needs to know that no one in the NHL shares his feelings, and that the Islanders and their fans see through his lame attempt at generating controversy. One wonders if he really feels that way. And if he's aspiring to be the next Wally Matthews, he should set his sights higher.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Game recap: Al Arbour Night - Islanders 3, Penguins 2

Inviting Al Arbour back behind the Islanders' bench one more time so he could reach 1,500 games as the team's head coach was certainly an honor for the Hall of Famer and must have been a wonderful experience for his family, which was on hand in impressive numbers in the post-game ceremony.

(For incredible coverage of the game and festivities, check out the reports filed by my fellow bloggers in the NYI Blog Box.)

But for the fans, this brainchild of Ted Nolan provided us the opportunity not only to see Radar - with his ever-present glasses and notebook in his hand - at the helm of the Islanders once more, but to reflect on his career and truly appreciate what a great coach, and person, he is.

When the Islanders first raised the '739' banner in 1997, emcee Clark Gillies introduced Arbour as "the greatest coach in the history of hockey," and while that could be debated, there's no question he is in the NHL pantheon. That was underscored by the presence of Scotty Bowman, who gave Arbour his first coaching job with the Blues. Bowman was a surprise guest tonight and dropped the ceremonial puck with former GM Bill Torrey, and Bowman later said that as a player, Arbour was like a coach on the ice.

Arbour won three Stanley Cups as a player, a shot-blocking defenseman despite wearing glasses, which tells you all you need to know about how tough he was. As a coach, Arbour was one of the first to use film and video to break down games and scout the opposition, and he took pride in staying calm, cool and collected on the bench. But his players will tell you that Arbour knew how to lay down the hammer, with what has been described as a "paint-peeling baritone" of a voice.

The numbers alone say it all. His 1,500 games and 740 wins as Islanders coach are NHL records for a coach with one team, and no one else comes close. Four Cups, five straight appearances in the finals and 19 consecutive playoff series victories truly define a dynasty. But another of the joys of this one-game celebration was hearing the stories about the things that set Arbour apart, and perhaps the most famous one concerned the fifth and final game of the 1982 first-round playoff series against Pittsburgh.

Down 3-1 with less than six minutes left and the chance at a third straight championship on the line, the Islanders were about to go on the power play when Arbour changed goalies, taking off Billy Smith and sending out Rollie Melanson. It was classic Arbour, using the Melanson warmup to give his top-ranked power play a bit more rest. Sure enough, Mike McEwen scored to cut the gap to one, and then John Tonelli scored the tying goal in the third period and then game-winner in overtime, keeping the dynasty alive.

And looking up at the '739' banner, and the Torrey banner, and the names SMITH, POTVIN, BOSSY, GILLIES, NYSTROM and TROTTIER hanging in the rafters, you realize, "God, what a great team." From the front office to the bench to the players, that Islanders team was one of the best the league has ever seen, and as a young fan I could not truly appreciate what I was witnessing, despite the incredible amount of joy that team gave me. It's only now, 24 years since that last Stanley Cup championship, that I look back and think how spoiled we all were.

Arbour always gave the credit to Torrey and to his great players, but anyone can tell you without Arbour, it never would have happened the way it did. Fittingly, the Islanders of 2007 came through on Arbour's night and won game No. 1,500, giving him win No. 740, and was interesting to hear Arbour say that he would really enjoy coaching this squad because it plays the game hard. Like his teams did.

It was a comeback victory. Down 2-0 after a lackluster start to the second period, the Islanders got it going when Trent Hunter - who was all over the ice - capitalized on a bad bounce suffered by Sidney Crosby, who was trying to bank the puck behind his own net. It came out to Hunter and he buried it.

Five minutes into the third, Miro Satan finished off a play that began with a long pass by Andy Sutton off the far boards to Josef Vasicek, who drew two defenders before sliding a perfect pass to Satan, whose quick one-timer beat Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby fired one off the post moments later, but the Isles had the momentum. Even Wade Dubielewicz came up big, getting the win and making seven saves after replacing Rick DiPietro, who was cut by Crosby's stick late in the second.

The game-winner came with 2:41 remaining. Marc-Andre Bergeron - who had been told to get his shots off quicker to the net - one-timed a snap shot from the point, which Fleury got a pad on, but Satan was there to put the rebound home.

All that was left was the banner-raising ceremony, and once again, the Islanders did it up right (if good karma means anything, the Isles have it in bunches after tonight). Besides Arbour's extended family, Islanders alumni were on hand, a roster that included Mike Bossy, Gillies, Gerry Hart, Benoit Hogue (awesome player in Sega '94) Pat LaFontaine, Jean Potvin and Bryan Trottier. Yet with all those stars, the guy who heard his name chanted like the old days - STEVE WEBB!

Just a great night all around. You couldn't have asked for more or for a better outcome, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Al Arbour, we salute you.

An update on DiPietro: According to the Islanders web site, D.P. is day-to-day after suffering "cuts near the right eye" but no damage to the eye itself. You'd think that if it was just a cut near the eye, they'd stitch it up and send him right out there. We'll see if DiPietro is in the net Tuesday night against the Rangers, a game he'd sure hate to miss.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Game recap: Islanders 4, Lightning 0

Tonight is the first night I'm actually sitting in the Blog Box, so on the night of Mike Sillinger's 1,000th career game, I'm changing it up and will provide a running account of the game and what it's like sitting in the Box, which is literally a table just above section 201 that's set so high when you're sitting down that I feel like my five-year-old son sitting at the kitchen table. It's also a lot like a booth at Chili's, which also always seems to have tables at chest height.

Anyway, I chose not to post a bunch of live updates, figuring you're watching the game and not looking at these blogs as the game is going on. If you are and would like live posts from the game, let me know - we aims to please. So with apologies to Bill Simmons, here we go!

6:59 - Standing here in the box, and my colleague B.D. Gallof notes that the crowd looks pretty sparse. He's right - getting into the parking lot at 6:30 p.m. was shockingly easy, and there were no lines at the concession counters a few minutes ago when I bought my "Stallion" combo, which really should be an Italian hero and not roast beef, don't you think? But I'm hungry and not complaining.

Don't count on light attendance Saturday, when Al Arbour will coach the Isles one more time to reach 1,500 games as the head coach. That should be a blast, and we'll see if the Isles wear throwback unis for the game, which would be fitting. So get there early.

Meanwhile, Sillinger is being presented with a jersey with the number 1,000 on the back in honor of his milestone game. It reminds me of the worst jersey I've ever seen, this past season at Shea Stadium. A guy had a Giants jersey that had on the back - from top down: MAYS - 24 - BONDS - 25. Horrible.

By the way, we're apparently allowed to cheer in the Blog Box since we're all fans here (and We're All Islanders, of course). But I can't do it. Too many years in the press box has me conditioned otherwise. That, and I'm trying to eat and type at the same time, standing up, which is a challenge, especially for someone who never learned how to type (the right way, anyway). The Stallion, by the way - not bad. And the cheese steak booth is also right outside this section. Mmmmmmmm, we'll be hitting that later fo shizzle.

Also, a shout out to my pals Frank Pasquale and Tom Loesch, former colleagues of fellow blogger Dee Karl. The hockey world is a small one (and getting smaller if you look at the national TV ratings, but that's another story.) Dee says hi.

7:11 - The guy who sang the national anthem said "perilous night" instead of 'perilous fight." Ouch. Still, he did a much better job than Carl Lewis, and certainly not as bad as Tracy Jordan. (I knew I'd get a 30 Rock reference in somehow. That'll be recording on the DVR within the hour).

7:18 - Jan Hlavac is whistled for the game's first penalty almost four minutes into a so-far lackluster start. Campoli and Bergeron are on the points for the power play. I like that pairing - we'll see how they produce. (This time? Nada.)

7:23 - This is not only my first game in the Box, but the first game in person this season, and you get a better sense of the players when you're here live. You've gotta love the size and skill Ruslan Fedotenko brings to the table. Good start to the season for the Tenk.

7:28 - Great glove save by DiPietro on Hlavac from in close. Love what D.P. brings to the table also.

7:29 - And the Ice Girls, for that matter. Make that the Sports Authority Ice Girls.

7:31 - There is a guy dressed up like a tremendous bottle of Tuscan milk to my right, with Sparky. Not sure why. I wonder if they go clubbing post-game in those costumes. They'd get plenty of free drinks.

7:34 - Another nice stop by DiPietro on Vincent Lecavalier from the door mouth. Eight goals won't be scored tonight.

7:36 - Bill Guerin scores his fifth goal of the season with a hard shot from the top of the right circle, 1-0 Islanders! Guerin beat Marc Denis low to the stick side. I was just about to type that the Isles have had few good chances so far. In fact, that was their only really good chance of the game, with Guerin on a mini-break into the Lightning zone, and he converted. Money player.

7:39 - Turns out that there's a Tuscan milk promotion and everyone in Section 201 got 50 cents off a gallon of milk. Great seats and cheap milk - can't beat that!

7:40 - Another opportunity for the Isles when Miro Satan picks up a loose puck and beats Brad Lukowich at center ice for a break-in. Denis makes the stop and Josef Vasicek just misses putting in the rebound at the right post.

7:42 - Chippiness: Sean Bergenheim boards Lukowich, then the Lightning blueliner flattens Bergenheim with a cross-check. Four-on-four action! (But no goals.)

7:48 - End of one, Isles up 1-0. Win every period - we're a third of the way there.

7:58 - Like I said, we aims to please at Still Drivin.' Here's a helpful between-periods hint. If you're sitting on the side of the arena, basically from gates 6 through 14, the side where the main entrance is - don't wait on those long rest room lines in the concourse. Go out to the entrance area, down the escalator to the convention space, and use the rest rooms down there. Much shorter lines - in fact, tonight there was no wait at all. Much better than waiting on line in the concourse, getting bumped into and mauled like Cheri Oteri between the Butabi brothers, plus the extra walk is good for your health. Maybe everyone knows this already, but I just figured it out. Then again, I have been accused of being a little slow on the uptake.

Also, there was a guy in the men's room who looked like Jon Voight circa 'Mission: Impossible.' Wonder if he drives a Chrysler LeBaron.

8:05 - Start of the second period. The Isles are up one, but they need to step it up here. This is one of those dangerous games where you sleepwalk for half the game, the other team gets a couple of breaks and you end up losing at home to a beatable team. I hope I'm wrong.

8:17 - Andy Hilbert with a great shorthanded chance, stealing the puck and taking it around the net before flipping a pass to Fedotenko in front that didn't click. Great effort, though. Isles kill another one.

8:18 - Seconds after the kill, the Islanders are on the power play when Hlavac is called for tripping. But the advantage yields nothing, again.

8:22 - I have to note that the view from the Blog Box is fantastic, particularly when the Isles are in the offensive zone on this end of the ice. I haven't thanked the Islanders on the blog yet, so let me say how much I'm enjoying the opportunity to do this.

8:24 - Al Arbour's birthday is today! He goes for win number 740 Saturday night. One of the greatest coaches ever, in any sport, hands down. All class.

8:25 - Isles make it 2-0 with some pretty passing down low with 7:34 left. Vasicek from the circle throws it behind the goal line to Richard Park, who finds Satan in the slot. His shot gets past Denis and trickles toward the goal line, and Vasicek sweeps in to tap it in for the score. You can sense a momentum change here - let's see if the Isles can keep it up.

8:31 - Hockey is certainly the best sport to attend live, but being at any sporting event in person brings with it so many additional entertainment opportunities. Like this one: drunk guys hitting on Ice Girls. Never disappoints.

8:35 - Islanders charging: Park skates in alone with 1:35 left - can't get off a shot but sends the puck to Hilbert in front, but he can't tuck it in.

8:36 - No matter - the Isles score anyway when Mike Comrie breaks in on Denis, who makes the save, but Fedotenko puts the rebound in with just 47.3 seconds left in the period. Isles lead, 3-0, and will start the third period on the power play thanks to a penalty on Tampa's Andre Roy. The momentum has DEFINITELY shifted.

8:43 - Best between-periods on-ice event other than mites playing a 2-minute game -- the human puck shoot. Dad pushes junior on a plastic sled, starting at the red line and pushing off at the blue, a la curling. Kid has to slide into the net. It's a good thing my son didn't see this -- he'd be crawling over the glass to be out there.

9:00 - No goals on that power play, still 3-0. Instead, another helpful hint: Cheese steaks and keyboards don't mix. And the cheese steak - nothing to write home about.

9:03 - Another nice stop by D.P. in front, this time stoning Michel Ouellet. He's got star of the game written all over him at this point.

9:04 - Trent Hunter makes it four-zip six minutes into the third, putting a rebound past Denis after a slapper from the point by Andy Sutton, with a second assist to Comrie. Game over, man.

9:08 - Best Doors song ever on the P.A. right now - 'Peace Frog.' Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven...

9:10 - Three-on-one for the Isles but Satan fakes a dozen times before trying to get the puck to Brendan Witt in the slot, too late. Moments later, Witt is jawing with Shane O'Brien. Exchanging pleasantries.

9:13 - Something else that never gets old: highlight reel of big hits set to heavy-metal music. That's hockey. Reminds me of the first film I made in college - an homage to 'Greatest Sports Legends,' where the subject was my brother Joe, the best roller hockey player on Penn Street. The soundtrack was AC/DC and Queen. The professor gave me a 'B,' but one of my classmates - who played in a metal band - said the film took him back to his childhood. I've always played to the fans, and not the critics.

9:14 - Boyle hits the post on a Tampa power play, then Denis ends the advantage with a delay-of-game penalty. Not Tampa's night at all.

9:18 - FYI - the cheese steak is not sitting well. I feel like Ron Burgundy. "Milk was a bad choice."

9:19 - Paul Ranger rings one off the post. I just picked him up on my fantasy hockey team. I'm honestly torn between being disappointed that he didn't score (goals by defensemen count more than goals by forwards) and wanting D.P. to get the shutout. That's fantasy for you.

9:26 - Your final score: Islanders 4, Lightning 0. Stars of the game:

3 - Fedotenko
2 - Sillinger
1- D.P.! D.P.!

9:37 - The gathered media just interviewed Ted Nolan and the bloggers got the chance to interview Vasicek. Towards the end, my cell phone starts to ring. My wife wants me to pick up milk on the way home. Ah, married life.

All in all, a nice win by the Isles, putting the hammer down on a team that is winless on the road, including 0-for-3 in the New York metropolitan area.


Ted Nolan

ON THE RECENT SCHEDULE: It was a real tough week, the last 2 weeks, for us to have one game in 8 days and all of a sudden you have another five-day break. I give the guys a lot of credit. These guys worked hard in practice this week and they stayed focused.

ON DIPIETRO: You know, those superstars have a great way of coming back and having a super performance. The last game was one of those things where, I think it had a lot to do with no action. If there's any one position that's toughest on, it's goaltending.

ON PLAYING TAMPA BAY COMING OFF A LOPSIDED LOSS: I think we're both two teams coming off embarrassing losses and tonight we were just fortunate to come out ahead.

Josef Vasicek

ON THE STRONG SECOND PERIOD: We got a little more into the game. It's really hard to play after not playing, we just sat out for 10 days, really. So it's hard to get your timing and everything back. Ricky played great in the first period, he held us in the game. We got our legs under us in the second period, and got the win.

ON HIS GOAL: It was a big goal for us. Parky made a great play, I was wide open as well, the puck just laid there and I swatted it. It's a game of bounces, but it counts and it was a big goal to make it 2-0.

ON THE LAYOFF: It's tough, you just practice over and over, it's just hard to stay focused. But it's over now and we've got a lot of games coming up. It's something to look forward to.

ON PLAYING FOR AL ARBOUR SATURDAY: It's going to be a great game, and it's sold out already so that's great. We're going to have a lot of people supporting us, and it's a much better feeling playing in front of a sellout.

ON DEFENDING AGAINST CROSBY: He's a tremendous player ... We try to focus on our team and play our style game and when he's on the ice, he can make the plays so you've got to be more wary when he's on the ice and he has the puck.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Game recap: Hurricanes 8, Isles 3

Aaaaand, we're back. Sort of.

This is exactly what everyone was afraid of with this ridiculous schedule, having a week off between games while Carolina was playing its fourth game of the week.

Rusty? You could say that. Rick DiPietro stopped just seven of 13 shots and made a terrible mistake behind the net that led to Carolina's second goal, which was sandwiched between two power play goals, which gave the 'Canes a quick 3-0 lead. And just when you thought maybe the Islanders could reclaim the game with a fresh start in the second period, Carolina scores 77 seconds in to go up 4-0. Good night, folks.

Carolina's backup goalie, John Grahame, got the win. And of course it always great to see Peter Laviolette come back the Coliseum and win a game. Just a bad, bad night all around.

Any good news? Well, Marc-Andre Bergeron returned to the lineup and scored a power play goal. And it looks like Shawn Bates will be back on the ice soon; he has been sorely missed and will add a spark to the team with his tough play. Other than that, let's hope the Isles use the next FOUR DAYS OFF to figure things out before Thursday's game against the Lightning.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Park welcomes new U.S. citizens

There was a time when Southern Californians playing in the NHL were as rare as, say, South Koreans. There just weren't any. Fast forward to 2007, and the Islanders have a two-fer in Richard Park -- a South Korean native who grew up in California.

Park detailed his journey from Asia to SoCal to Toronto to Uniondale at Friday morning's Citizenship Celebration, held at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University. Park was the keynote speaker at an event that saw dozens of people from more than 20 different nations take the Oath of Allegiance, officially making them American citizens.

I had the honor of attending the ceremony, which featured remarks by Congressman Tim Bishop as well as Stony Brook University president (and avowed Islanders fan) Shirley Strum Kenny. Bishop noted that for the United States, "It is in our diversity that we gain strength," and Park echoed that sentiment when he took the stage.

Park, one of four children born to South Korean parents, is only the second Korean-born player to ever play in the NHL. He explained how he grew up in California but ended up playing ice hockey, surprising his parents. He eventualy moved to Toronto at age 13 to pursue his dream, living with his sister while his parents remained on the West Coast.

Park said that as a kid he never gave much thought to his citizenship, until he started representing the U.S. at hockey tournaments. He played on a U.S. team at a tournament in Switzerland at age 16, and it was then that he felt the pride of representing his country. He added that his "proudest moment" was when he was named captain of Team USA at the world championships several years ago.

"Pride, honor, respect, dignity - these words come to the forefront when I think about this country," Park said. He added that he has a family of his own now, making his off-season home near Los Angeles with his wife and two children. "There's no other country I would rather raise my kids than the U.S." he said.

Park later invited America's newest citizens to come out and cheer on the Islanders this weekend. Of course -- he's a team player!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things I did on my mid-Fall vacation

- Looked up old issues of NHL HANDBOOK to look at head shots and hair ' dos of Islanders back in the day.
- Fine-tuned my CBS Sportsline fantasy hockey lineup.
- Organized and Febreezed the hockey bag.
- Took the dog to the vet.
- Paid some bills.
- Wondered why John Tonelli's number 27 isn't hanging in the rafters.
- Renewed my stance for the NHL going to European ice dimensions and against making the nets larger.
- Reminded myself that the Islanders will be back on the ice on Saturday.

So it looks like we'll be seeing more of Marc-Andre Bergeron now that Bryan Berard is out 2-4 weeks with a groin injury. Berard's two goals have been game-winners so he's made an impact despite not logging regular time. Now he's hurt, so the eight-defenseman quandary is solved - for now.

Next post - why you should be watching 30 Rock and The Office every week.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Game recap: Isles 4, Devils 3 (OT)

That was one heck of an entertaining overtime, and that was before Bill Guerin scored the game-winner in the final seconds. Of course, the game shouldn't have gone to overtime in the first place had the Islanders not let down in the third period, but overall another solid win -- and a division win at that -- for the Isles, who now get six days off. Enjoy it, fellas!

The Islanders absolutely dominated the second period, outshooting the Devils, 16-7, getting tremendous work again from Vasicek, Satan and Bergenheim. And what was up with Satan's dance moves after scoring the go-ahead goal in the second? He looked like he was channeling Tony Manero there.

Islanders were again productive on the power play, with Comrie making it 3-1 later in the second, pouncing on a loose puck after Bruno Gervais rang a shot off the crossbar. And how impressive have Campoli and Gervais been? Marc-Andre Bergeron was scratched again. Something to ponder with such defensive depth.

But you could sense the letdown coming after a fluky / bad goal by Pandolfo cut the Isles' lead to one early in the third, and when the Devils tied it 10 minutes later, you thought back to the play of the second period and wondered where it all went.

But give the Isles credit for hanging on, with DiPietro making some nice stops. The overtime was wide-open with chances for both sides, and then Andy Greene was whistled for tripping with 32 seconds left in the OT. Brent Sutter was livid and let's face it, if a call like that went against the Islanders that late, you'd be just as ripped. But that's the new NHL and they're calling it tight, and that allowed the Islanders vaunted -- yes, I called it vaunted -- power play to work its magic. Nice pass from Campoli down low to Comrie, who threw it out front, where Guerin found it for the winner. Sweet.

And to cap off the night, we learn that the Rangers -- who lost to winless Atlanta this week -- got shut out by the Bruins to remain in last place in the division. Now if only the Jets could win tomorrow ...