Monday, November 7, 2011

Islanders Look to Get Rolling Against Boston

The New York Islanders earned a huge and potential momentum-shifting victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

They'll face the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins, tonight at TD Banknorth Garden, and they'll be doing it on Versus.

Interestingly enough, Boston's the only team with a worse record than the Isles at the moment, but they too are coming off a resounding win Saturday night, a 7-0 drubbing of the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs.

Don't let their record fool you, the Bruins are a good hockey team, there's no question about it. The Isles will have their hands full tonight, and they have to be ready to go to work, or they're going to come up short.

Evgeni Nabokov gets the nod between the pipes, making his first appearance since he took himself out of a game against Pittsburgh, which New York ended up losing in a shootout, with Rick DiPietro tending the crease for the skills competition.

He's been the team's best goaltender this season. This is a big-time matchup and Nabby's a big-time goalie. That's why he's starting tonight and not, say, Al Montoya, who Isles fans have been clamoring for to no end.

DiPietro was solid over his last couple of starts, but Evgeni Nabokov is better-equipped to handle a game like this one.

Some might say the Isles are giving Nabby the start, in an attempt to showcase him for a possible trade. I would disagree with that notion.

It's simply too early to get rid of a goaltender right now. The Isles do not want to use Kevin Poulin or Mikko Koskinen this season, and if DiPietro gets hurt again, they'll be able to use Nabby and Montoya.

If and when a trade were to occur, it would likely be closer to the trade deadline. But it's not in GM Garth Snow's best interests to take a chance by moving Nabokov, only to have to call up one of his young goalies from Bridgeport a few weeks later.

Let's wait and see if, dare I say it, DiPietro can actually stay healthy and where this team stands. If the Islanders are in, dare I say it again, playoff contention and Nabokov's been their best goaltender, there's no reason in hell to trade him to another team.

Head coach Jack Capuano's likely to keep the same line combinations from Saturday night, so it'll be interesting to see if the new trios click like they did against Washington.

It's imperative that the Islanders pepper Bruins' goaltender Tim Thomas with shots. If you don't wear him down, he's not going to miss a beat and you won't score much, if at all.

Also, the Bruins can score, especially Tyler Seguin, who notched his first career hat-trick Saturday night. The defense has to play like they did last game, or Seguin and Co. will fill the net.

This is a winnable game for the New York Islanders. They just have to stick to the game plan and simplify things in the offensive zone. There's no reason to try and pull off the perfect play. This team is most successful when they break things down and play smart hockey.

Players to Watch

Evgeni Nabokov

I fully expect Nabby to have a strong game tonight. He's been excellent for the Islanders so far and there's little reason to believe he'll slow down anytime soon. Nabby may have his ulterior motives, but that doesn't mean the Isles haven't benefited from his efforts.

Matt Moulson

Moulson's been struggling to find the back of the net, but I think tonight's the night he gets back on track. Look for him, as well as his linemates (John Tavares, Michael Grabner) to have a big game.

Travis Hamonic

Hamonic played well defensively against Washington, and he'll need to be up to the task tonight against the Bruins. The Islanders need him to do what he does best – taking away shooting and passing lanes, using his body and generating some offense from the blueline too. I expect him to do all of those things tonight.

Comments are welcome.


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