When the New York Islanders take to the ice tonight at Verizon Center, they'll do so with a patchwork blueline and a group of forwards that's just slightly more established. Take a gander at their current injury report:
Shawn Bates (C): Hip surgery, remainder of the regular season - IROn that list are four of the Isles' top six defensemen in terms of ice time, their top faceoff man and third-leading goal scorer (Sillinger) and Cap-killer extraordinaire Jon Sim (11 of his 52 career goals have come against Washington). These are big injuries, especially for a team that wins (when they win) on defense - no team has scored fewer goals on the season than the 'Ders.
Chris Campoli (D): Shoulder surgery, remainder of the regular season - IR
Blake Comeau (C/W): Head injury, day-to-day
Bruno Gervais (D): Oblique, day-to-day
Mike Sillinger (C): Hip injury, late February - IR
Chris Simon (LW): Suspended
Jon Sim (LW/RW): Right knee injury, remainder of the regular season - IR
Andy Sutton (D): Leg injury, 4-to-6 weeks
Brendan Witt (D): Knee injury, sidelined indefinitely - IR
And yet, just when the Isles look dead in the water, they rattle off a few wins to keep hope alive. Case and point, they come to town riding a four-game win streak which comes right on the heels of an 0-6-1 stretch in which they scored just 11 goals. On the plus side, they haven't won five straight since 2003.
Ted Nolan deserves every ounce of the praise he gets for squeezing a winning record out of these guys because, quite frankly, the Islanders are awful. They don't score, don't have a terribly good team GAA, are bad with the extra man and worse five-on-five, and are led in scoring by a guy with a minus-20 rating (and bad taste in pop tarts) who has fewer points than Alex Ovechkin has goals. In fact, the Isle's top three goal scorers combined have one more goal than Ovie. Their top six scorers - each of whom has a minus rating - are a combined minus-63. Michael Nylander's 37 points would be good enough for second on the Isles in scoring. I could go on, but won't.
But for all that suck - and there's plenty - they have one more point in the standings than the Caps, which is the real kick in the yambag.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you're gonna make the playoffs, you've gotta beat the teams you've gotta beat. This certainly is one of those teams, and one with whom the Caps shouldn't have a whole hell of a lot of trouble. For a Caps team that hasn't won a game by more than a single goal in more than a month, it's time to cash in two points in a convincing manner.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Mike Green love at CBSSports.com.... Happy 51st Birthday, Glen Hanlon.... Finally, one year ago today we looked at what "fair value" for Dainius Zubrus would be and previewed the Caps and Habs (which included my incredibly prescient take on the state of the franchise in Montreal - "the Habs are destined to be mediocre for the foreseeable future").
- Hart: Jarome Iginla (2G, A, +2, 7 SOG, 2 hits)
- Ross: Jaromir Jagr (4 points)
- Norris: Dion Phaneuf (2G, including the game-winner, +3, fight, 5 SOG, 2 hits)
- Vezina: Tim Thomas (43 saves on 45 shots against in shootout win)
- Richard: Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Michael Ryder, Ryan Malone, Alexei Kovalev, Brendan Shanahan (2G each)
- Calder: Sam Gagner (G, A)
- Aiken: Carey Price (3 goals allowed on 11 shots against in just 13:56 of work)