PUCK DROP: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
A THREE HOUR TOUR: LIGHTHOUSE HOCKEY
Well, the Islanders are actually leaving the Island in time. Somehow won’t be shocked if it’s next year but it’s scheduled for the one after that. And then being in Brooklyn could very well lead to the most obnoxious fanbase in hockey.
Anyway, the Hawks kick off 2014 after a glorious and somewhat beyond belief 2013 at Nassau County Coliseum, which is probably the opposite of glorious and certainly is beyond belief in the other fashion. Careful in the bathroom is you’re going. They’ll take on a car wreck of an Islanders team there.
The main storyline for the Hawks is the return of Corey Crawford. God help us all in the logical world if he doesn’t pitch a shutout tonight, as the unwashed rabble will not wait long to call for a controversy in net if Crow doesn’t find immaculate form. If there’s one bonus to Crow’s injury is that he will be rested (though rusty), and it could be argued his overuse after Khabibulin’s injury led to his fatigued groin (or whatever it was the Hawks want you to think it was). Crow’s going to have to knock off the rust, and hopefully that means not getting overly aggressive because he’s best when he’s basically tethered to his crease for the most part.
As far as other lineup changes, Michael Kostka looks set to take his turn in the #6 d-man roulette wheel, which keeps everyone fresh but none sharp. Whatever.
The Islanders had a decent start to the season, but good lord has it fallen apart. They’re the wooden-spooners of the Metrosexual Division, five points of Columbus. The biggest reason is goaltending, which everyone told the Islanders it would be but they plunged ahead with Evgeni Nabokov anyway. Of course that very thin ice cracked in a hurry, first via poor play and then injury as that’s Nabby’s way. Kevin Poulin hasn’t been able to pick up the slack.
Strangely, the Islanders are a better possession team than Colorado, though that still lands them in the bottom third of the league. And the Isles have more problems than just in net. The forward group is a bit top heavy. John Tavares, Thomas Vanek, and Kyle Okposo can rock your world (just ask the Wild who Okposo just tore apart). Grabner, Nielsen, and Bailey on the second line have their moments as well, and are one of the fastest lines around so don’t turn the puck over against them as they’ll be gone faster than you can say “This arena smells funny.” But that second line has really fallen off since the start of the season. Grabner only has five goals and Bailey has been booted from this unit at times.
But there is nothing on the bottom six really, and the blue line is basically what’s left after you stick your hand in the garbage disposal. Travis Hamonic started the year as an outside shot to make Team Canada. If you define outside as “somewhere near Pluto,” I guess you could still call him that. Andrew MacDonald, Thomas Hickey, Matt Donovan… yeah, it’s just not a lot. Isles fans (if you can find one) will tell you they really miss Lubomir Visnovsky. But if you really miss Lubomir Visnovsky…
But Long Island has cobbled together three wins in the last four — a clocking of Detroit in Detroit, a comeback win over Minnesota where Okposo went nuts, and a win over the Bruins in Boston on NYE. So they’ll be feeling their oats a bit. That doesn’t mean the Hawks should have too many problems. The only way you get in trouble against the Islanders is if you let Tavares and Okposo have too much space. The other lines just aren’t going to beat you. But if the New Years’ hangovers haven’t cleared yet, that top line is enough to beat you.
Would be best if Corey Crawford got a lot of support to ease him back into the ease of things. So do that.
-I’m sorry to attach a personal note to this, but if you’ll allow me I just want to thank the many of you who have reached out to send your thoughts and support during what is a difficult time. While I won’t get into details, that hasn’t stopped many of you from sending an email. Though I haven’t been able to respond to all, I assure you that every single one of them means a lot and I really do appreciate it. Thanks again.