Islander News Articles 10/14

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/13/2008 09:02:00 PM | | | | | | 2 Comments
Newsday: Greg Logan went all out to make DiPietro not playing in relief of Joey MacDonald the story of the day while Scott Gordon explained his philosophy on pulling goaltenders while the beatwriter accused the coach of only answering questions he wanted to. Joey MacDonald gave his comments with the beatwriter again cornering him on the subject of DiPietro's availability.

Newsday: Mark Herrmann barely stopped short of writing DiPietro was injured and could not play but dressed anyway while Nate Thompson defended his goaltender. Joey MacDonald also talked about the game along with more from Bill Guerin.

Newsday: Greg Logan has comments from Nate Thompson about the fights and Bill Guerin on the penalties.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
It's over the top Newsday is attempting to play doctor and second guess the coach to this degree. MacDonald had a shaky couple of costly goals, others were just breakdowns no goalie could stop with open nets. Islanders had Campoli, Martinek, Sillinger from the playoff with Buffalo injured today but as usual Mr Herrmann needed to kick a little extra dirt on them and stir the pot asking what's changed since the playoff series with Buffalo?

It's three games and they could have won two, tone it down Mr Herrmann. One thing that has not changed is how vindictive Newsday is running down this club every chance the get and targeting DiPietro.

If Gordon wanted DiPietro to sit out regardless, Danis would have been recalled.

Sure seems many Newsday staff writers have some major issues with Rick DiPietro for just about anything and are not going to make it easy for the club with the injury policy but who can blame the team given how poor they have been treated by the local media for so long?

Daily News: Peter Botte was permitted by Daily News Sports editor Leon Carter to make his first appearance at Nassau Coliseum since last season and jumped right on the DiPietro bandwagon wondering why the goaltender was was not used in the third period with Scott Gordon's comments who felt his club did not play a very good game with Mr Botte writing that his answer was to deflect from discussing his goaltender.

NY Post: Dan Martin's coverage included Bill Guerin's comments about how much work this team has to do along with Scott Gordon.

Newsday: Jim Baumbach had a few words about DiPietro as he had selective amnesia about what goalie won the season series between Lundqvist-Brodeur and Rick DiPietro a year ago along with what goalie faced the least shots per game in the Eastern Conference and for three months still could not get his save percentage above nine in Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist is seeing even less shots than he did a year ago to date so credit his early play but any goaltender should win with less shots and a trap, an argument the media uses often against Martin Brodeur which seems a double-standard by Mr Baumbach.

Buffalo News: Mike Harrington has the Sabre coverage.

Updated Tuesday Morning:
Newsday: Mr Logan blogs Tuesday morning with captain Bill Guerin's comments who did not excuse fatigue for his teams play and pointed to his time under former Devils coach Jacques LeMaire's system taking a long time for the club to learn. Mr Logan then gave early impressions of the lines and young players while forgetting Nielsen's first period chance where he got to the perfect spot and was robbed shorthanded on a great feed from Hunter.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Curiously Mr Logan felt despite Guerin's comments on the future things look grim for a team right now that is only 1-2 that has yet to play close to it's full lineup that easily could have been 2-1 if not for interference against MacDonald.

Newsday: Anthony Rieber in the latest Newsday disgrace claims the Islanders since trading for Ryan Smyth have been timid and cheap in the decision making process despite what the Islanders paid Mark Streit or Mr Logan's claims of the offers Drury or Scott Gomez being virtually the same (not front-loaded) as the Ranger contracts were.

Sarina Observer: Dave Borody has comments from Islander prospect Justin DiBenedetto along with Sarnia head coach Dave MacQueen on his five goal, seven point game on Sunday.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio has a blog update with his early Sound Tiger impressions along with the lineup among other items.

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Buffalo 7, New York 1

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/13/2008 04:03:00 PM | | Comment Here
Islanders website: Recaps the Islanders loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday afternoon.

Cannot do anything about today at the Coliseum but here is Sault Star on Islander prospect Justin DiBenedetto's comments after his five goal, seven point game Suday, which Peter Ruicci reports about.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
That was just brutal in every sense of the word, the loss of Martinek was painfully visible.

The Islanders were just that poor in every area, when the time came to send a physical message they also looked overmatched with Bergenheim going out of his way to stick up for his teammate.

I would love to credit the Sabres for putting on a show of skill and speed that just blew the Islanders off the ice on this day but this was just an Islander team that could not get out of it's own way against as easy an opposing goaltender you can hope to face who was hardly tested.

A nice shorthanded feed from Hunter to Nielsen in the first, a very good shift to open the second from Guerin-Weight-Sim but for two periods that was it until Hunter scored.

Discipline? Mike Comrie has to knock off the Jason Wiemer imitation every time he takes a hit he does not like, even if the ref blows the call. All it does it put the club shorthanded and he was very lazy to take another penalty in the neutral zone.

Okposo looked as out of sync as anyone while Richard Park looks like a fourth line player who should not be on a line with Comrie or Okposo.

MacDonald was terrible and that's being kind, he did not have his angles, that shot that hit him early and dropped behind him reflected a goalie struggling.

The Islanders forced Lalime to do virtually nothing for two periods, Tambellini looked like a deer in the headlights most of the game again not getting involved and taking an offensive zone penalty, can Comeau look any worse?

Streit looked a lot like Marc-Andre Bergeron and others last year on at least two instances with the man advantage. That brief five on three in the third he was just throwing pucks at the net. That's too much asking Jack Hillen to play an off wing on defense with Brendan Witt.

Again, easy to write it's a bad day and that they are developing but Buffalo did not have to be very good at all today.

On this day the Islanders played down to the worst of their expectations, will be interesting to see how Scott Gordon reacts because no goalie change fixes how poor this team looked today in virtually every area.

Buffalo on this day barely had to break a sweat, Lalime could have sat in his crease and still would have won handily.
Goes without writing it the worst news of the year for our league is the death of Ranger prospect Alexei Cherepanov who died during a game in his native Russia on Monday at the age of nineteen here.

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New York vs Buffalo Msg+2pm

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/13/2008 12:30:00 PM | Comment Here
Islanders website: Has the preview for today's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Former Islander Tim Connolly is out with an injury for this game with the Sabres coming in off a 2-1 shootout win against Montreal here.

Since the lockout ended this second home game has not exactly been friendly to the Islanders. Usually the club seems to come out flat after the opener and a little mini-test to see if things are a little different under a new coach. Of course Islanders usually have a lot more road games played by the time they come home.

I remember the Washington game last year where they outplayed the Caps
but lost a close game along with the Post making a big issue of a thousand people or so not being at a game that was an announced sellout that Mr Botta was not happy about. One Florida game a few years ago they could not get out of their own way.

Injuries? Wake me when they take the ice, no pregame but an actual postgame. Funny the Isles put up a live link for postgame coverage for the folks who wanted to hear from Gordon and the players, not the Msg spindoctors with Butch Goring.

Like ITV who did the Monday pregame on Saturday night (who can blame them with hard how they have been working with these updates) this blog was a little prescheduled.

Not sure if I can catch this one live Monday. I'm going to target a game for a live blog here and I'm thinking the Tampa or Dallas game.

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Islander News Articles 10/13

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/13/2008 07:05:00 AM | | | | | | Comment Here
Newsday: Greg Logan's article is partly about what goaltender Joey MacDonald did to improve this summer as the writer drew comparisons with former goaltender Wade Dubielewicz circumstances and how he was not in the best shape at this time a year ago with a little more revised history that includes writer speculation on Dubielewicz relationship with Rick DiPietro.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Game today sure did not seem to be the theme of this article.

Only value here was MacDonald talking about how much he improved in his movement from side to side and how he went about it.

A lot of revision to Dubie-gate with the beatwriter now providing the angle Ted Nolan wanted to send him down after the Leaf game in October but Garth Snow kept him where during the summer it was the former coach who praised the goaltender while the general manager back in April talked about Dubie's early season conditioning.

First time I have read anything about the DiPietro-Dubielewicz working relationship which the beatwriter did not mention last summer when the story on Dubielewicz not returning broke.

Buffalo News: Mike Harrington previews today's game from the Sabre-centric angle with head coach Lindy Ruff's comments which could also include a goaltending change to Patrick Lalime with the Sabres in a four game in six day stretch.

Toronto Sun: Reports Islander prospect Justin Justin DiBenedetto had a five goal game Sunday night in a 7-2 win for the Sarnia Sting against the Sault St Marie Greyhounds in Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Observer having a few words on the game here. Announces TSN will market and distribute real-time scores and official NHL stats generated by NHL HITS (Hockey and Information Tracking System), including boxscore data, cumulative season statistics for players and teams, player career statistics, league standings and official scoring leaders.

In addition, TSN will market and distribute the "NHL Daily Dose," a daily online video that briefly re-caps NHL action from the night before.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Interesting they can do all this but not provide hockey fans with an Rss feed for their hockey-centric updates.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio recaps the 2-1 shootout loss at Hartford with comments from head coach Jack Capuano who praised Bridgeport goaltender Peter Mannino for his play with a brief report card on the game here and today's countdown about the number five here.

Brandon Sugden signed to a tryout contract by Hartford did not play in this game for those wondering.

Ct Post: Mr Fornabaio had more post-game in his blog.

Hartford Courant: Had a staff report on the game.

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Islander/Sound Tiger Sunday Notables

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/12/2008 06:23:00 PM | | | Comment Here
Newsday: Greg Logan had a blog update that attempted to update the roster injures and reported Joey MacDonald worked hard in practice and could start against Buffalo, he seemed to have some unconfirmed encouraging news on Mike Sillinger.

Mr Logan also clarified the rules on Josh Bailey's status that he can play his nine games at any point this season and also expanded more on Scott Gordon's comments from last night's article about Blake Comeau that he can work his way into the top six forward spot but first he has to work his way into the bottom six.

No injury statement/non-statement on Radek Martinek will come until Monday if at all.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
In short Josh Bailey may not be seeing Windsor until after the WJC if he is out for a good six-eight weeks or returns to play his nine games here before the tournament.

You can bet Windsor Spitfire gm Warren Rychel and coach Bob Boughner cannot be pleased with how this has turned out.

Regarding Blake Comeau it's best to read what Mr Logan wrote and what the coach said, too much room for misinterpretation in this.

Maybe the right way to go with these injury reports is to just give the projected time frame the player could miss that does not disclose the problem but does keep folks somewhat informed but given the media's treatment of the Islanders I'm siding with the club all the way on this regardless of how they go. Reports Bridgeport lost 2-1 in a shootout at Hartford Sunday afternoon. Andrew MacDonald scored the Sound Tigers goal, Peter Mannino had thirty four saves, Yann Danis was the backup.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
For those scoring at home that Andy McDonald of the Blues, Joey MacDonald of the Islanders and Andrew MacDonald of the Sound Tigers. When the Islanders and Blues meet in the Stanley Cup Finals this spring we will simply have to work around it.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio is blogging on Bridgeport at Hartford with lineups, no goaltender has been recalled at this time with Brett Skinner listed on the Sound Tiger defense.

Mr Fornabaio also added in the page change correction to the newspaper article that had some problems earlier for those who would like to read the full article on last night's Sound Tigers first win of the season in Albany.

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Early Impressions/Peca Notable

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/12/2008 09:07:00 AM | 2 Comments
As long as Joey MacDonald is playing well and making a difference with game changing saves you keep running him out and let DiPietro have his own training camp at his own pace.

After Monday this team has two games in ten days in Florida before playing Dallas a week from this coming Thursday 10/23, plenty of time to get DiPietro sharp and even start a game in Bridgeport.

I think the biggest clue was Scott Gordon talking about the Florida trip, if I was forced to guess I think that is where he will make his first start.

If I'm coaching and MacDonald plays like this against Buffalo he keeps starting until he stops doing it regardless who the other goalie is and whether he is healthy.

Having written all of this of course DiPietro will start Monday.

Will be interesting to see how this defense adjust from MacDonald who is not a mobile puck-handling goaltender back to DiPietro. Aside from the Panther game some of these defenders have not worked with DiPietro.
I guess Skinner gets the call to sit in the stands if Martinek is out Monday and beyond but unless Skinner gets a break on Sunday he will be at a game four days in a row.

I expect Hillen will be back in the lineup.
Nothing so far about Nate Thompson's game that impresses me, not a great skater and seemed weak on the puck. There was a reason Boston put him on waivers and could not find a deal where they got something. I'm not seeing it so far unless he goes out and gets in a fight or two or throws some big hits.

But it is early.
I'm waiting for that first big chance from Nielsen or Tambellini to get them some confidence, still a little too tentative when the puck comes to them.
Hunter looked good beyond his goal as always, does so many things to win a game in the corners and shorthanded.
Jon Sim got through his second game and it sure seems an article on much he was missed last season is appropriate because he was a pest all night and had his quickness driving to the net. That was badly needed last season.
I thought that was Meyer who threw the big early hit?
Highest marks to Mr Dey and the Islanders for getting that building full last night and the fan response given the over the top negative media attention doing seemingly everything possible to keep people away. I have been in that building for an opening night that had only 11,000 and no television coverage a decade ago.
If Martinek is out for a long stretch does this mean Garth Snow call up Berard's agent before he heads for Russia? No answer in terms of defense but someone who does know the organzation.
Too bad Garth Snow was not a former broadcaster so the media would have gone easier on him like John Davidson who's club finished behind New York last season.

I like Andy Murray but can folks tone down the mantra about how great a coach he is because he's lost for a long time now going back to Los Angeles.
Do I really care what the Islanders play after they score a goal? Not anymore.

I may be the only one but I sure miss our classic siren, this is the only thing after a goal that works for me.

Colmubus Dispatch: Aaron Portzline has the latest on former Islander Michael Peca who will face disciplinary action for physical abuse of any official which carries an automatic suspension of ten games.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
I did not see this but that seems completely out of Peca's character and if he says he hit the glass with his stick I tend to accept that. Of course if he was still playing for Toronto the Leafs media can claim Greg Kimmerly jumped into Peca and that's why there was contact with the offical being at fault.

No doubt a few folks get where I'm going.

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Islander News Articles 10/12

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/12/2008 06:45:00 AM | | | | | | | 2 Comments
Newsday: Greg Logan's game recap has comments from head coach Scott Gordon who talked about the teams urgency being better than it was against the Devils and hopefully this will be his clubs identity. Joey MacDonald talks about the game and the crowd response to his play. Andy Hilbert comments on the system and was happy for his former coach in Providence. According to Mr Logan Rick DiPietro said the report in Tsn was completely false.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Says a lot about Mr Logan when the his first written words after an effort like that was about truth in advertising and claiming the game was an announced sellout. He's doing a good job getting out his underlying message that he's not happy with clubs injury policy instead of writing about the game.

No other article had a word about the attendance for those wondering.

Last time we saw this from Mr Logan we got an interview with Marc Gandler and incorrect headlines about Yashin with a buried retraction that even Cory Witt was not thrilled with after the damage was done.

Newsday: Greg Logan's other article is mostly Scott Gordon's comment about what Blake Comeau has to do to be a bottom six forward as he talked about his contribution last season and seemed to downplay his contribution.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Sure seems like this coach does not like anything about Blake Comeau's game.

The last time I read these kind of comments about a young player Robert Nilsson was traded to Edmonton. Comeau seems like he is not even on the radar for a bottom six spot on his depth chart, nothing at all to like here if you are a fan of Comeau who changed positions in the second half for a long stretch which Scott Gordon left out of his comments.

I have no idea what Scott Gordon sees in these tapes of last year that does not suggest he is player who can be a big asset to his system? Only the coach and player know what he has not done this year. A few more days of this and it's time to wonder should he go to Bridgeport and play some games because it's not doing him any good to sit in the stands.

Josh Bailey is expected to be out two-four weeks according to Scott Gordon.

Newsday: Arthur Staple made DiPietro the entire story (after including an update on Josh Bailey) questioning why he is even on the bench at all if he is not ready to start with even head coach Scott Gordon growing tired of this after again explaining that DiPietro has only been taking shots for a week but could have started.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Fair to write the team winning is just not a good enough story or a place the media wants to go. I'm not sure what else Scott Gordon, Rick DiPietro or anyone can say about DiPietro unless Mr Staple wants to outright claim Scott Gordon and Garth Snow dressed him hurt and that he cannot play but is on the bench anyway?

Sure would have been nice to read something about how the club played here and a good night for a franchise that badly needed a good night tempered by Martinek's loss.

I guess Mr Staple and Scott Gordon are not off to a very good start.

All I can do is repeat from here it seems painfully obvious management does not trust the media and given the coverage it's impossible not to blame them.

MacDonald deserved more ink for his play, Streit did also along with Weight and Guerin as did Bergenheim.

NY Post: Mark Hale's limited space article was mostly about DiPietro with both the goaltender and head coach Scott Gordon's comments along with goaltender Joey MacDonald.

Daily News: Kristie Ackert was actually allowed by Daily News sports editor's Leon Carter's staff to cover the home opener which was mostly Rick DiPietro's comments but also had a few words on the game along with praise from Bill Guerin for Joey MacDonald's play.

Sorry gang, the money in the Times budget for hockey only allowed sending Lynn Zinser to Philadelphia and blogging for the Cablevision product.

St Louis Post-Dispatch: Jeremy Rutherford has the Blues coverage.

Sound Recaps Bridgeport's 4-2 win at Albany which included a big night from Trevor Smith, Kurtis McLean and Mike Iggulden, Yann Danis won his Bridgeport debut.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio has the recap of Bridgeport's 4-2 win against Albany on Saturday night with comments from head coach Jack Capuano (problem with article at this time)
and a preview of Sunday's 4pm game in Hartford here.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio recaps the win with the line combinations and even speculates Greg Logan is upset in his blog.

Troy Record: Chris Fitz has the River Rats coverage and recap of their home opener.

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New York 5, St Louis 2

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/12/2008 05:15:00 AM | | | | Comment Here

Islanders website: Tom Liodice from the Islanders blog box writes the recap of Saturday's 5-2 win against the St Louis Blues.

Associated Press: Canadian Press : Also has
recaps of Saturday's 5-2 Islander win against the St Louis Blues.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
You want the good news or the bad news first?

Good news? You got it.

First few minutes Blues looked very big, very fast and confident off it's opening night win, Andy McDonald was generating some very good chances and looked a lot more like the player he was in Los Angeles.

Islanders from there just hit the switch and started outworking the Blues, crashing the net, working the corners and getting to high quality areas in the middle of the ice. Mason gave up a few softies but Hunter went to the middle of the ice, Bergenheim went to the middle of the ice and Comrie's goal came from the middle of the ice.

That's how you score, get to high-quality areas.

New York had a MacDonald of their own, who frankly robbed the Blues of a few which was the difference that set the tone for the game. One amazing second period save by MacDonald led to a second period breakaway where Guerin found Sim all alone that would have brought the building down if he finished.

Four goal first period? This team had eleven first period goals in mid-December a year ago, they had four in the first period last night.

Mason made up for his first period with some excellent saves in the last two, Islanders could have had seven or eight.

Islanders looked good beyond the goals they scored and I wanted to see if their game was technically better with this system, jury is still out but some good things.

I was more impressed with Bergenheim's play late in the third to create a quality chance than his goal. Sim was creating quality chances from everywhere. Okposo created some solid chances, Hunter made a few nice moves to get into position. I did not like seeing Tambellini go to the outside for soft shots when others were looking for the middle.

Mark Streit made that shorthanded goal with his vision to feed Hilbert who made a very nice play to finish, that's a skill that cannot be taught and a quick glimpse of what Streit brings. Comrie was getting his shots back at center.

On defense they bent a little and a few of those saves MacDonald should not have been called on to make. Meyer was on the wrong end of a few plays but stepped up and did a solid job. Gervais was outstanding, for the most part a steady team effort but MacDonald was the difference.

This was a game the Islander goaltending outplayed the Blues goaltending early but you credit the Isles for getting to quality areas. Powerplay could have been a little better.

Very happy for Doug Weight who I bet wanted to prove something here to the Blues along with former Blue, Bill Guerin who capped the scoring.

You would never know the Blues finished behind the Islanders the last few years with all this blanket praise for John Davidson vs Garth Snow.

Now the bad news of the night.

Before this game I wondered what could be the next worst thing that could happen to this team that they simply cannot afford, within the hour it happened.

I do not think they can replace what Martinek gives this team and this is a devastating hit to this defense if he is out for any length of time. He has to be there and at his best for this to have any chance to work in the long-run. Martinek's
shut down defense with his speed and skills key the entire group.

No one in this organization can replace his ability to skate the puck out of the front of the net. After DiPietro long-term this is something I cannot see them overcoming even if DiPietro returns.

Islanders team defense got through last night in the third with a Blues team that seem resigned to it's fate, they scored the 4-2 goal and had a few good scrambles in front of MacDonald but they were giving up chances to get them.

Good win and a nice job by the Islanders getting the place filled with it's media doing all they can to keep people away.

For a player who was in such distress DiPietro had a big smile all night and was last off the ice at the end of the game.

Congratulations to Scott Gordon on his first NHL win.

Did you expect anything but a disgrace from Msg regarding it's coverage? No press conference from Scott Gordon or the players but they have Valiquette on television within minutes?

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10/11: New York vs St Louis 7pm Msg+

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/11/2008 11:00:00 AM | Comment Here
Islanders website: Has the preview for tonight's home opener against the St Louis Blues.

St Louis Post-Dispatch had two updates on the Blues season opening win along with who may be in goal tonight as they travel to New York here.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Speculating on the lines and lineups these days simply is just a waste of time for everyone. The team is keeping things internal so all we can do is play the guessing game which I'm not going to indulge in too much at all.

We'll know when the puck drops unless the club releases something otherwise, I would not count on that happening.

Having written that, I know a lot of folks see the home opener as a huge game.

For myself if it means Joey MacDonald again starts you do what has to be done to keep your franchise goaltender healthy long-term. If that means a game in Bridgeport for DiPietro or him sitting in the stands only taking pucks at practice for the next few weeks you do whatever it takes so that he is in the best position to be successful.

There are only three games in the next eleven days after tonight. DiPietro can have his own preseason camp any way they wish to do this for the next little stretch with his first game 10/23.

I want to briefly expand on a few points I brought up yesterday on Hockey Night on LI.

Nate Thompson comes here as a center with some enforcer skills as part of his resume which is an element lacking among this group of forwards and with Josh Bailey apparently injured again that's where Thompson fits yesterday.

Blake Comeau did not play a single game as a center last season so forget any comparison between both these players or that Comeau was benched for Thompson, this is not a video game, players have to play their natural position.

Fact is Bailey got hurt and the real loser here was Jeremy Colliton, who the club kept starting at center last weekend. Snow and Gordon opted for Thompson over recalling Colliton when Bailey got re injured.

I do not like the fact Comeau did not dress based on last season but it's a new season with a new coach and a new system so we have no idea what happened in camp or at summer camp for that matter.

We'll have to hope Comeau adjust better to Scott Gordon's system and wins him over when he gets his opportunity as Bergenheim did under Ted Nolan. This also means for the moment (or at least game one) Mike Comrie played some shifts on the left side (Comeau's side) if you watched closely Comrie was spotted for a few shifts in the middle.

Is Comrie still hurting so that's why he's on the left side? Why was he with Park and Hilbert who are not going to score enough to trust long-term? I don't know.

Maybe Scott Gordon is not a fan of Comrie's defense down the middle vs Nielsen and is falling into the trap of expecting Park and Hilbert to score or just feels their defense is critical?

I'm glad the information was incorrect on Gervais sitting but Pock has displayed better offensive skills so it may come down to what the coach wants from game to game. Gervais stepped into a point shot last night. Martinek got a powerplay look with his right-handed shot to offset Mark Streit's left-handed shot.

Blues come in with injuries and off a season opening win.

Updated: Reports Islander goaltender Rick DiPietro has swelling and fluid around his surgically repaired left knee which Greg Logan has a blog update in at Newsday here.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
If someone is called up the problem is worse than expected, if not he will take his shots and participate in the warmup or start. Obviously Mr Logan is a bit frustrated at the injury policy but given the mistakes his headline writers have made in coverage along with a lot of over the top negative reporting from the staff at Newsday why should the Islanders be anything but conservative with information they release?

Updated 5pm: Reports DiPietro will miss his second straight game tonight but the injury is considered day to day and he is expected to start Monday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Sound Tigers website: Has a preview for tonight's game in Albany that also includes an update on the radio/webcast problems that folks may have had listening to the opener against Philadelphia.

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NYI Fan Central Notables

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/11/2008 07:03:00 AM | | | | Comment Here
First of all my Thanks once again to Alex and Steve from Hockey Night on LI for inviting me to appear on their season opening program. As always I had a great time talking New York Islander hockey with them and they do an exellent job with the program. They will be on again Saturday at 3:30pm with the second of the double-header home opening weekend.

At the time we did the show yesterday, we did not know the lineup or injury situation as even folks in the media did not know until the club took the ice.

All Hockey Night on LI programs are featured on the sidebar of NYIFC for those who could not listen live.
My Point Blank: Mr Botta as always had a ton of upstanding updates for the opener, the weekly radio show he does at 1050Espn will be on tape delay Saturday from from 5:30 - 6:30 pm and include Islander general manager Garth Snow among the guest.
On the blog box front to this point the club has not announced it's newest addtions to the group. I noted they took out the bloggers who decided not to return so I guess they are ready to add the new members in when they can.

Last year I was the last blog added in November and at the time I was told because of all the work behind the scenes it took a lot of time to put the blog box together so for those waiting for an answer please be a little patient.

I will add the feeders to all the new members blogs when available so you can read everyone's latest entries here. My suggestion was they add a lot of blogs because you cannot have enough hockey content, I would go at least twenty deep.
On the poll front the basement is off to an early lead with Comeau on the sidelines making my sixth place projection not look very good. It's early and I suspect he will win over this coach but it's not the best of starts.

I understand folks have been virtually posioned by the media about this club, all I know is they were in sixth last January and made four of the last six playoffs with about as flawed a club you can have and still did not come apart until they won another six games in a row to be right there at the trade deadline.

I have seen enough Islander seasons where they were double-digit points out by thankgiving, we saw that in 05-06 by the end of the year.

Of course for those who watched the opener they saw a club that hardly looked like a fifteenth place team.
Finally New York Islander Fan Central is making a small change of it's own that should be visible now for everyone.

We have claimed our own domain with the official name changing to

Hopefully blogger still lets folks redirect from blogspot for those who have bookmarked or link directly here but just in case I thought I would tell everyone so you know where the find us in case it does not work the same for you.

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Islander News Articles 10/11

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/11/2008 05:49:00 AM | | | | | 2 Comments
Newsday: Greg Logan's article had comments from Doug Weight, Joey MacDonald, Kyle Okposo and head coach Scott Gordon.

Newsday: Mark Herrmann's stir the pot article was basically on how Scott Gordon learns quickly not taking chances with the franchise player as he looked back at last year. Scott Gordon who credited Joey MacDonald for how well he played along. Joey MacDonald who talked about his coach and how they told him to be ready.

Newsday: Greg Logan's other article was all about DiPietro and what they are going to do to keep him healthy along with the decision-making process in whether he plays.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
I understand DiPietro not playing is a big story, but so is Frans Nielsen, Tambellini, Hillen and the game itself. Between the Newsday blog updates on the DiPietro can we please get more on the young players who have to hit the net or any discussion of any goaltender is moot. About two and a half articles were about a player who did not play last night.

NY Post: Mark Everson's Devil-Centric article had more from Scott Gordon on starting Joey MacDonald but no Islander article.

Daily News: Kristie Ackert had Devils centric article-only.

Newark Star Ledger has the Devils coverage along with the Record of North Jersey here.

For those wondering this is how an Associated Press article is supposed to read

Note-Islander fans with Time Warner Cable in New York City did not have the game on Msg+2 live.

Star-Phoenix: Reported Islander prospect Jyri Niemi made an unexpected regular-season debut for Saskatoon who was expected to sidelined for two more weeks after he was injured at training camp finished the game plus-one, with one assist and two penalty minutes.

Sound Reports Bridgeport also lost 2-1 to the Phantoms on Friday with Mike Iggulden scoring the lone Bridgeport goal.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio has comments from head coach Jack Capanuo and Trevor Smith on the loss along with a full blog entry with line combos and notes here.

Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News : Share Phantoms coverage in the combined papers.

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New Jersey 2, New York 1

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/11/2008 05:26:00 AM | | | Comment Here
Islanders website: Has the recap of Friday's 2-1 loss to the Devils with head coach Scott Gordon's comments on how his club performed along with the status of goaltender Rick DiPietro while Doug Weight also had a few comments.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
What can be said folks, they had the penalty shot off some great effort by Okposo a few post/crossbars by the player who cannot be counted on to finish in Richard Park and mostly played an even game but did not make the most of it's powerplays which they put in some good work to draw.

Sim took the puck and went right at Brodeur off the wing, Tambellini got involved and was out in the final seconds with Nielsen.

MacDonald gave them every chance to stay in the game with a few big saves, second Devils goal clearly looked like goaltender interference.

I'm not surprised the Islanders played Thompson over Comeau, one plays center, the other does not. Comrie moved around a little. No idea MacDonald would start but at this point you go as slow as you have to with DiPietro and keep him healthy.

This is Scott Gordon's team, he's going to move players around and we'll see how things play out with Comrie and Comeau and we have no idea where Comrie is with his injury from a year ago or how Comeau looked in practice or if something injury is up with him.

A few mistakes on the backline and some good plays by the Devils but Islanders did a solid job overall, game hardly looked like a mismatch. Overall the Islanders defense was solid and Witt had one big hit early.

Simply put they could not finish or could not get that bounce beyond the first goal, that was a game they needed to get a point from based on how they played.

We move on to the home opener.

10/10: New York at New Jersey 7pm Msg+2

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/10/2008 06:07:00 AM | 3 Comments Has the early preview for tonight's game against the Devils in Newark along with the Islanders website here.

Note-If things run as they have in the past Time Warner will not cover the Islanders version of the telecast live or activate it Msg+2 telecast. You can watch that on replay that finally makes Msg+ deep into the night or tomorrow afternoon.

According to the TV guide there will be no Islander pregame shows, the Devils apparently for tonight will have one, the Islanders will not have one tomorrow and no Islander post game after the home opener.

Cablevision/Newsday's Neil Best (long time Ranger fan) confirms here with his usual indifference and dig at the problem about what he plans to do about it.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Islanders have had a lot of good games against the Devils but a lot of this roster is still in training camp mode recovering from injury with a goaltender who is seeing pucks for the first time with any regularity since March. Questions with regard to the health of key veterans are all over this lineup with Comrie on a fourth line in practice. Comeau and Gervais on paper seem the odd player out based on some practices but that's a guess along with Bailey and a lot of other things.

What I do not have to guess at for the moment is Sim-Weight-Guerin are one line and Tambellini-Nielsen-Hunter are another. Hillen and Pock seem the big winners for spots in the top six and Meyer seemed to play very well from reports.

Preseason is never a good indicator but the Isles did compete with mostly a regular Devil lineup last week (without Brodeur) I guess we start there.

We actually get to see a game live on television, it's only been about six months for anyone without a computer.

As for Neil Best I still have audio tapes of 1981 semi-finals, always fun listening to the Islander fans cheering a sweep at Msg with Barry Landers and Jean Potvin going wild.

Just thank us for the rivalry saving the Rangers from moving to NJ back then as Msg bleed red ink.
I will be appearing on Hockey Night on LI with Alex and Steve at 5pm for those who would like to listen or call in here.

Win or lose tonight I will not have a recap or articles on this game until Saturday morning.

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Islander News Articles 10/10

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/10/2008 04:23:00 AM | | | | Comment Here
Newsday: Greg Logan's article has head coach Scott Gordon's comments on the success of his system throughout his coaching career while the beatwriter looks at the injures and provides speculation on the lines combinations.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Scott Gordon is going to coach the way he knows how and stick to his concepts or he is the wrong coach for the team regardless of the injuries, for now he will try and get his club healthy and balance out four lines any way possible.

Best circumstances to start a season? Absolutely not, but after the way the first weekend started a year ago I hope our newer fans have learned never judge a book by it's cover.

Newsday: Mark Herrmann's mostly worthless filler article is about arcane numbers with the only value the occasional quote from the players on the few peripheral items that relate.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Instead of this numbers article we needed more on the line combinations, why Comrie is on a left wing with two fourth line player and what numbers are being called on the powerplay and shorthanded.

Newsday: Greg Logan has an interview with the newest Islander, Nate Thompson and did a little backtracking on the other first rounders like Filatov who he wrote were NHL ready the other day because he has been sent down at this time.

He also had a few words on the hit on Chris Lee that did not produce a suspension to
Florida’s Rostislav Olesz and wondered because he was ok if that was the reason.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
I did not see the Florida game but did the webcast/radio thing. Newsday did not report live on the game the next day. We finally got the ITV version on Thursday after this was already decided. Perhaps if Newday had a writer in Florida to tell the story and demanded action it would have influenced the league to suspend the player as we see often with media who demand action.

If this happened against the Leafs five writers would have been demanding suspension Monday night, all day Tuesday it would have produced a fan outcry on Colin Campbell's doorstep after it hit the radio shows that likely would have seen some action or at least an explanation.

Instead Mr Logan only mildly questioned the decision in a blog entry long after it had been decided.

Cannot blame the age of the Nassau Coliseum on this one.

Not good enough Newsday/Mr Logan.

For those keeping score at home that's about four articles on Nate Thompson with comments and that's excellent. Having written this the player who may just beat out Bruno Gervais from a spot in the top six on defense picked up on waivers a week ago still had not said one word in print on the teams website or in the local paper.

I don't know about anyone else but I would love to read a quote or two from Thomas Pock at this point or does he enter the Martinek-coverage zone?

Daily News: New Ranger beatwriter
Michael Obernauer (big time Ranger fan according to his opening blog) produced a postage stamp article who had a few recycled words from head coach Scott Gordon's August press conference about winning the Stanley Cup but then the writer immediately brought up DiPietro's contract, not his all-star appearance last season.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Please take off that Ranger jersey when you write about our team. I do not expect a full time writer assigned to Saturday's home opener because I have never seen more indifference from the News toward the club.

NY Post: Dan Martin
has a season preview where he feels the club will not stay in contention as long as it did a year ago that had no quotes from anyone but did look at the roster by position.

NY Post: Mark Everson I guess gave the Islanders-Devils somewhat of a shared preview for tonight's game with little more than Brent Sutter's comments about his club has struggled against both New York teams.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio's article is on Bridgeport's special teams with comments from assistant captain Joe Callahan along with head coach Jack Capuano who talks about his team and the decisions behind naming his assistant captains.

Ct Post: Micheal Fornabaio previews Friday's season opening game against the Phantoms in Philadelphia.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Philadelphia Phantoms
WHEN -- Tonight, 7:05
WHERE -- Spectrum, Philadelphia
ON THE AIR -- Webcast and Internet pay-per-view at
C Ben Walter (knee), C Micheal Haley (hand) and D Chris Lee (head) are all out for the weekend with Pascal Morency still sorting through immigration paperwork to sort and a contract to sign.

Bridgeport plays it's next game in Albany on Saturday.

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Bailey Leaves Practice/Notables

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/09/2008 01:49:00 PM | | | | | 2 Comments
AP: Ira Podell had comments from Bill Guerin, who disputed the media predictions about the club along with past knocks about management with his opinion this is a playoff team that can surprise next spring while Rick DiPietro discussed his surgeries as summer maintenance as he also defended the clubs record.

Mike Comrie talked about the young players while head coach Scott Gordon felt this team has to play more in the offensive zone because they were working well, but too
long in the defensive zone a year ago.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
I thought the AP was only supposed to put the quotes in the article? Instead Ira Podell writes Bill Guerin comments are about bravado, competitive spirit, or sheer denial and then writes about the clubs relevance?

That to me is over the line for the Associated Press.

Not the first time I have noticed this New York based AP Hockey writer get in a few shots at the club or not let the comments tell the story.

A little surprising Ira Podell's stat based argument went nowhere near the club leading the league in injuries or that the club was in sixth place last January.

Isn't the AP supposed to tell us the entire story, especially when they decided to discuss stats and players lost along with the standings?

I'm glad Bill Guerin defended his team and the management, some of this is out of hand and over the line. In my opinion (and I post all these articles) it sure seemed the core players on this team told the AP writer here a lot more than they have seemed willing to tell Newsday since camp started.

The real value in this article through head coach Scott Gordon inadvertently is we
are picking up more and more of what he felt last year's team did not do well which had to come from the tapes of games and the hockey staff.

Newsday: Anthony Rieber had an interview with Josh Bailey's general manager in Windsor, Warren Rychel where he talked about the teams captain playing at the NHL level and that fans in Windsor will have a nice choice on Monday when both teams play.

Of course the important news of the day was Bailey left practice left practice on Thursday with an undisclosed injury as Mr Botta had more on from the teams practice on this but the team is not release details per policy.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Sure hope Bailey finally gets a chance here completely healthy, no doubt this means all bets are off for when/if he plays.

It also means Scott Gordon needs to tone down it's only the players from last years roster getting injured in drills mantra.

Mr Rieber got his implied message in about the Islanders keeping him here for PR purposes, no doubt about that. Rychel got his message out too asking why the fans could not see the exhibition game in New York.

First a full article from Mr Baumbach, now Mr Rieber? It beats their blog entries based on no information at all but given their past work it's a matter of when before they start beating all over the club for any reason they can find.

That's what they told us this summer themselves.

Newsday: Greg Logan has a blog update on Josh Bailey's new injury, the ramifications to the line combinations and what this means for Nate Thompson who plays center with Blake Comeau seemingly not on a set line.

Ct Post: Michael Fornabaio's blog updates the injuries and line combinations at Thursday's practice. Mark Wotton will remain as captain. Tim Jackman is one assistant, Jeremy Colliton and Joe Callahan alternating the other A depending on home vs road.

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More on Nate Thompson

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/09/2008 07:46:00 AM | | | Comment Here
Anchorage Daily News: Doyle Woody has an article from the hometown paper on the newest Islander, Nate Thompson about being claimed on waivers, Scott Gordon from working together in Providence along with what's ahead and why he will wear the #45 for New York.

Boston Globe: Fluto Shinzawa has comments from Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning along with head coach Claude Julien who had high praise for Thompson who the team tried to trade but according to Benning, there were other teams besides the Islanders who were interested in claiming Thompson.

On July 28, the Bruins re-signed Thompson to a one-year, $500,000 contract, according to the writer he had a strong training camp, serving mostly as a fourth-line center and penalty killer.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Always love finding articles from hometown papers on players, and comments from the organization that let him go. Classy stuff again from the Bruins.

Make your own judgements where he plays here, fourth line center/penalty killer.

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New York Islander Fan Central 08-09 Prewiew

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/09/2008 07:00:00 AM | 4 Comments

Simply put if you do not follow New York Islander Hockey on a regular basis. only look at the standings on the final day of the season or only accept what a lot of professional reporters who cannot name five current players tell you but start with DiPietro's contract or the late nineties to supplement their lack of current knowledge this preview is not for you.

A lot of folks live for the page view/shock jock game and write things to simply get your attention or frankly to help generate interest in themselves as the club gets caught up in the middle of that avalanche far too often. Those folks will also provide the eye-candy pictures or jokes as they attempt to make a style based analysis that goes beyond any peripheral substance they can attempt to provide.

Truth is there is no comfort for a lot of the media in a substance based discussion of the current New York Islanders, worst of all this level of reporting has worn down a lot of long-time fans and influenced their viewpoint to where in the absence of quality coverage will now accept virtually anything in it's absence.

With that we begin our preview.
Last year when I did my 2007-08 preview I projected the New York Islanders to be a sixth place club.

At the time I felt the players imported would make up for the scoring lost with the returning players producing more. Satan, Hunter were in contract years, had the ability to improve and when I was done checking the numbers the Islanders on paper had replaced most of the scoring the club decided not to resign or could not resign in the case of Ryan Smyth.

On paper it looked good but either the system used by Ted Nolan or the talent was not up to that task from day one as most of the new players or returning forwards simply could not produce on a regular basis. Sillinger, Hunter and Satan did not pick up the scoring slack while at best we saw uneven performances from Comrie, Fedotenko, Guerin as most forwards had scoring slumps of twenty games or longer.

Garth Snow and Ted Nolan had most of October for this group to adjust with all the downtime or solve it's problems with players from other organizations, it simply did not improve with the coach constantly pointing out this club did not have the talent to compete in a wide-open game.

The group scored two goals or less fourteen games in a row when they were almost fully healthy (aside from John Sim) and only had eleven first period goals into mid-December. Many nights the club needed to get into the second period to generate a quality chance with a team defense that was terrible at even strength which was the virtual opposite of it's 06-07 counterpart.

The powerplay was one of the worst in franchise history just as prone to allow a chance with the man advantage as they could generate one that allowed fifteen goals with it's powerplay.

Having written about all this downside, where were the the 2007-08 New York Islanders were in January of 2008? Sixth Place.

They not only competed well in the Atlantic but very well dominating the Devils and Rangers, never looking out of place aside from it's special teams against Philadelphia which was self-inflicted too many games with respect to the Flyers talent.

Finally the flu produced one seven game losing streak that dropped the club out of it's playoff spot and despite a six game winning streak that pushed them back to within two points of eighth at the deadline, more injuries hit that finally were enough to send the club into a tailspin that they could not get out of with a lot of players unable to continue or playing hurt or ineffective during the final weeks.

From here on for the purposes of this preview lets get beyond Ted Nolan vs Garth Snow, both lied to the fans about their ability to work together.

A new coach is here in Scott Gordon but forgetting any coaches system or the usual fluff players give to the media about a new coach during the honeymoon period lets get down to talent and what players should be capable of doing under any coach which is why they are in the NHL.

Where will the 2008-09 New York Islanders Finish?
If they get over the injury problems still lingering from last season Sixth in Eastern Conference.

You wrote this is a group that lost sixty plus goals from the lowest scoring club in the league, sounds like a homer preview already NYIFC?

No pulling punches, if they cannot shake these injuries and improve their overall scoring and team play as a group, a playoff spot will not happen. I will explain why I think the scoring and team play can and should improve.

Anyone who watched the games last season know Blake Comeau and Sean Bergenheim outplayed and outworked the veterans on their lines far too many nights which even Bill Guerin acknowledged by the time the season was over.

This was not a situation where they were holding back veterans but exactly the opposite and both are at a point they can and should produce as the NHL game slows down for them at this level. Jeff Tambellini is also at that same point with his offensive skill or he will not be here much longer regardless of his contract. Kyle Okposo seems capable of doing this at a younger age as he generates chances and is a huge factor in this projection. Frans Nielsen was drafted in 2003 and has been playing against NHL veterans in tournaments for years. From early preseason reviews combined with his earlier cameo's with the club he is ready to play at this level and should contribute.

Josh Bailey for as long as he hangs around is a wild card and we'll see if his skills translate to this level.

Overall it was a quiet preseason for these players aside from Nielsen's four point game in Summerside but still the club went 4-3, this was a schedule that was more about getting healthy for many including Bergenheim and Tambellini.

I do not expect any passengers from these players desperate to prove themselves and build on what they been doing for years to get to this level, if not there are players hungry for an opportunity, the depth has not been this good in a long time and just as important a lot of that depth starting with Jeremy Colliton, Ben Walter and others are at a point they make it or move on.

Bottom line these young players will do more things that do not always appear on a score sheet to win a sixty minute hockey game that last year's group were not capable of doing. This will offset some of the numbers as they produce their share of offense while continuing to improve.

Veterans and Scoring?
It was a big hit to lose Jon Sim's speed, aggressive play and seventeen goals last year but no one should mistake him for a top six reliable scoring forward. Some media wrote about this but most did not, Sim seems to have fully recovered from his knee injury which is like signing an UFA who replaces one of the departing veterans numbers and hopefully can improve the club in other areas which was one of the reasons he was signed in the first place.

Doug Weight comes here and the questions are whether he was the fifty point player at this time a year ago or the player he was in Anaheim at the end of last season as a healthy scratch? Does he still has his passing skills and powerplay vision? If he is a fifty point player and can still set up a powerplay that should more than offset the uneven play Josef Vasieck provided in what seemed a season where he performed to his ceiling but still went almost thirty games between goals. if not someone is going to take Weight's spot because there are a lot of centers in this organization waiting for a chance along with the possible return of Mike Sillinger at some point.

Bill Guerin now has his friend and former teammate again at his side, coming back off a full year as captain acclimated once again with the Eastern Conference and a top six role expecting to produce more and reportedly ready to jump on anyone not pulling his weight. It's a more settled situation for him than a year ago that should provide him confidence to play within his capabilities as he often talked about his own confidence a year ago as he struggled to start and finished playing injured. He still has his shot off the wing and flashes of speed when it's time to get to high quality areas to make a play. Last year he spent far too long in low percentage shooting spots waiting for the puck to come his way, was that the system or a players declining skills?

Mike Comrie came here wanting to be the go to player on offense and a first line player, regardless how that plays out expect the most skilled offensive talents with the most upside on his wings whatever line it's called on paper that should push his play to it's highest level. He has to be healthy and should come in like Guerin with something to prove because this player only seemed to scratch the surface on the leagues lowest scoring club a year ago with his forty nine points.

Trent Hunter knows he can and should score more, his overall hard work should help the speed, skill around him produce and return the puck to him where he can be most effective. On paper this reads well, on the ice it has to happen and should because there is still an expectation of what we saw in 2003-04 before his knee on knee with Sean Brown. Hunter is the template for the kind of the character player this organization wants to build it's core around.

This time around I expect Richard Park and Andy Hilbert will be placed in roles realistic for their career production. No coach is going to make them consistent scorers unless Scott Gordon and Garth Snow get an amazing bonus that goes outside their respective career resumes. I do not see these players in this teams top nine forwards, if they are in those roles for any extended time the team will not be successful or in playoff contention unless it's in a defensive role to close out games the club is leading. We'll see where and how newly acquired Nate Thompson fits the mix as a center/winger but obviously Scott Gordon wanted him here with his speed and a physical element combined with AHL scoring ability.

Too early to tell but virtually nothing short of declining the powerplay would be worse than last year with a unit that allowed fifteen goals with it's man advantage and turned the momentum of several games to the opposition's favor as it took the ice. Mark Streit, Jack Hillen along with Chris Campoli's eventual return and Weight's powerplay talents combined with more chances from the skilled, faster young payers has to get the other clubs defense running around down low to wear them down.

Can Weight and Streit's vision/ability to make a play create more time and open space for this unit that keeps the opposition off balance and backing in? I think so and not because Garth Snow said he solved his powerplay by signing the former Hab.

Streit sounds like a very bright player who knows how to create a chance and has improved every season since coming to the NHL, he's one element to the solution.

All I do know is nothing could be worse than Richard Park, Bill Guerin or Miroslav Satan on the point last year as the unit looked desperate and concerned about turnovers which also included Berard, Bergeron, Campoli and a host of players still here who got a look but seemed lost when the opportunity came for them to get a chance. It would not even shock me to see Snow sign Berard now that he has been released from the Flyers to improve his depth.

The powerplay is going to improve because it's not possible for it to be any worse than it was a year ago, regardless of how little Scott Gordon has had to work on his special teams.

Shorthanded this group has several players who do well in this role that were solid last season that are back, I see no major weakness on paper with this unit to begin the season but over time we will find out trends for 2008-09.

Last year this club dropped it's shots against by 198.

The media forgot to pick up on that like they forget the club was in sixth place in January or ignored the six game winning streak when they got past the flu but as flawed as last year's club was they did manage to do this and should do even better now because it's a deeper group with virtually everyone signed for at least two years.

The injuries that define the individual resume of the defense are back with Chris Campoli, Andy Sutton already out and a waiver (Thomas Pock) claimed, if injuries go four or five deep all bets are off on the clubs success but you can write this about practically any team.

Starting from there this overall group even with it's current injuries is far deeper defensively than last year's version that was even more unsettled at the beginning a year ago waiting to sign Berard before he got hurt, Sutton's early struggles, Bergeron inconsistent along with Johnson not getting a chance before a practice injury put him out along with Freddy Meyer landing on waivers as he sat around and did not get an opportunity.

Radek Martinek and Brendan Witt with his new three year contract are steady and at times outstanding at shutting down star players as they move the puck well out of danger area's while Witt is also a shot blocking machine who not only plays big, but smart as he draws penalties and frustrates the opposition and leads by example. Witt's game rubbed off well on Sutton for a good stretch of the second half as other clubs tried to get him off the ice because he simply made solid defensive plays and kept the opposition off balance. Freddy Meyer finally got his chance to show what he could do and from early indications seems to have picked up where he left off as not only a very steady defender but someone who can make a hit and raise his game. Mark Streit and Thomas Pock will have to adjust to a new team but overall the returning group settled in very well last season, were effective when healthy and should pick up where they left off individually.

Bruno Gervais will be an interesting call as to where he fits Scott Gordon's depth chart which alone explains how much deeper this group is because when healthy this is a very solid defender who knows how to work the corner and clear the zone. Jack Hillen by all reports seems to belong as this level and provides an offensive element others lack that will give this college player a chance sooner, not later as Garth Snow seems to feel signing him was like getting an extra first rounder which I do agree with.

Beyond the injuries this is the biggest concern.

Scott Gordon can talk overspeed every single day but you can only get so much speed and positioning out of some players. This was a group that broke down last year that did not play with speed. During this camp his players broke down from a practice routine that even had him quoted as saying he has never seen anything like it and pointed to last years returning players prior habits which has to be a red flag.

The Islanders are going to travel more, play more games against the Western Conference and they are going to have to keep up and adapt from the style of the Atlantic. This is where we will get our best indication about whether this club can compete and I do feel the younger players have that extra step last year's team lacked which will have a positive effect.

I see these elements not as how many fights by appointment a club can win after a goal to change momentum, but how many hits they can make to frustrate the opposition into retaliation penalties and then put them away with powerplay goals. Whether it's Mitchell Fritz, Tim Jackman, Witt, Sutton, Comrie, Guerin or DiPietro fighting it will happen as it happens.

This is not the NHL of Gillies, Howatt any longer with bench clearing brawls, this group seems to take some hits but also seems able to dish them out. I see it as a wash over eighty two games and if anyone has watched Bergenheim, Sim and Comeau all three know when and how to initiate a hit and have a bit of a nasty edge. Hunter is never shy about finishing his checks but is not a big open ice hitter. Witt and Sutton at times pick their spots.

Rick DiPietro has to stay healthy for this club to have a chance at a playoff spot. He begins the season with virtually no game play aside from one exhibition game where the rust showed on a goal or two and only now is seeing his first pucks since March. Last year he backstopped a club that scored two goals or less fourteen games in a row into sixth place last January and keyed a six game winning streak with his second half play after starting the All-Star game and like many players on this roster hung in with injuries as long as the could. At his best DiPietro almost adds a third defender who's stick-handling was improved last season but only got attention once again for his mistakes from the media that make his contract and personality an issue for their own reasons, not for how he performs as one of the best goaltenders in the league according to future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur.

What's different this year is DiPietro will have far more second half breaks than he had after last year's huge break in October. Last year this team did not have one three day break after mid-December the rest of the season but now the club will also spending more time traveling so making a set schedule for the goaltenders play this far in advanced simply is not realistic despite the articles about it.

Joey MacDonald can both play at this level for a stretch of games and had limited stretches in the past with other organizations, when the chance comes he has to be ready and should be given the preseason. MacDonald
had a forty five shot 2-1 overtime loss against the Devils on 4/1 where he looked as sharp as Wade Dubielewicz in his final games but that was then, this is now.

Of course, unlike last season where he was a starter now he must adjust to being a backup and sitting for long stretches.

Bottom Line:
If last year's team was in sixth in January with so many flaws I do not see a reason (beyond injury) why they cannot be there again, only this time it should be a deeper group with better overall individual skills. Last year we saw a great first weekend followed by a team that was never any better. This year I expect the reverse with the club improving as the season progresses and being at it's best down the stretch.

All of what I wrote in this preview should lead to more goals in games, better survival skills to get games into overtime/shootouts and pile up the unbeaten in regulation streaks to keep the club in contention and push them over the top for a spot down the stretch.

I also believe we are going to see a much better reaction to adversity from the players along with management. I project as these young players improve and their confidence grows were going to discover this team is for real and built to last.

Depth is a funny thing, you go from not have it to having too much out of nowhere.

A lot of things are contagious on NHL teams from scoring, slumps, confidence, it goes both ways and turns quickly. The key for this group will be to prove they can get that first big stretch where they can score four goals in back to back games, all of a sudden you go from wondering if it can be done to knowing you can do it.

That's where this group will hit it's stride.

I suspect off the ice Garth Snow is going to stick to his plan and at best only if injuries happen to veterans will a similar player be brought in as a short-term fix.

On the bench Scott Gordon will have what seems an overdue trial by fire with the benefit of watching many of the clubs's AHL prospects for years as he learns the speed of this level combined with how to coach veterans. We will see how Gordon reacts to adversity he did not face in Providence if the club struggles which apparently Ted Nolan and Garth Snow did not react well to.

A good indicator if I'm correct will be how many games I write the Islanders played poorly but won because the opposition was even worse or how an ugly win still counts just the same as DiPietro carried the club. I have found myself writing that so many times the last six years despite the playoff spots it seemed a question of when, not if things would finally catch up with them whether they made the playoffs of not.

For myself, writing that early this season after games is not a big deal, however if I'm still writing it in late January every game win or lose, I suspect we'll have our answer as to what kind of team we have in 08-09.

If I thought the talent and ability was not there to finish sixth in 2008-09 it would not be my projection.

Mark it down, Sixth in the Eastern Conference if healthy.

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