Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Isles Need Jet-Powered Effort in Winnipeg

Tonight, the New York Islanders are in Winnipeg for the first time since 1996.

For the visitors, this game represents, not only two points, but a potential step in the right direction. If the Isles have any aspirations of competing for a playoff spot, now is their chance to prove they still have one.

Saturday night's impressive win over the Minnesota Wild was a good start. The Islanders need to build upon it with another strong effort tonight. Everyone has to contribute; it doesn't matter whether you're a sniper or scrapper.

These Winnipeg Jets have played well of late, and they're certainly capable of beating the Islanders, as they demonstrated earlier this season at Nassau Coliseum.

Led by Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd and a host of other solid forwards, as well as defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets pack quite a bit of punch. Give them too many scoring chances and they will make you pay. Travis Hamonic and Mark Streit need to be at their very best tonight, as does the entire defense for that matter.

Streit's been the center of attention the last few games, and for all the wrong reasons. He's been going through a rough stretch and one has to wonder if he's completely recovered from that shoulder injury, which kept him out of action for the entire 2010-11 season.

As for Hamonic, I expect him to play well. The Manitoba native will have plenty of friends and family in the stands at MTS Centre and that should boost his confidence.

On offense, I'd like to see Nino Niederreiter get more involved. Granted, he's just coming off a concussion but he's shown glimpses and needs to start creating opportunities for himself. Now would be an excellent time to start.

I'm no prophet, but my gut tells me Evgeni Nabokov will get the start in goal.

Given that Rick DiPietro is back on IR, it doesn't appear Nabokov will be going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Suffice to say they're not "showcasing" him at the moment.

Of course, that does not mean he shouldn't play. Fact is, Nabby was pretty sharp until he got hurt and he needs to play once in awhile, otherwise he's going to stay cold. Your backup goaltender needs to be effective and Evgeni Nabokov won't be if he never plays. 

Besides, it's not like Al Montoya couldn't use a break. He may have played well on Saturday night, but Montoya's probably still fatigued. He's been in too many games in a short amount of time; a rest wouldn't hurt. Au contraire! Taking a breather would likely benefit Al and his fellow Islanders.

*UPDATE: Al Montoya will start in goal tonight, per Arthur Staple (Newsday).

If this team wants to make a statement, they need to do it tonight. There's still some time left on the clock but make no mistake: That clock is ticking. 


Comments are welcome.

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