In what could prove to be a huge boost to a struggling defense, injured anchormen Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek are both set to return from injuries this afternoon for a MLK Day matinée. Not that the defense has been horrible – but they have been severely lacking in size, with Andy Sutton being our only d-man who is on the topside of 200 pounds and over 6 foot tall. With the loss of Campoli while Witt and Martinek were out – players such as Meyer, Gervais, Bergeron and Johnson were forced to play extended minutes and did an exceptional job all things considered.
Witt, who missed four games with a sprained ankle, and Martinek, who was sidelined for almost a month with an injured lower leg, have been sorely missed. The Islanders have played the past four games without both, and with the shoulder injury suffered by defenseman Chris Campoli Wednesday night against the Devils, the team has been down to six healthy defensemen. The Islanders had to rely on Freddy Meyer, whom they had released and reclaimed on waivers, and Aaron Johnson, who finished a brief conditioning stint in Bridgeport after being out 2½ months with a knee injury.
When you have guys like Witt and Martinek in the lineup, they help solidify a complete defensive core. Guys like Meyer, Gervais, Bergeron and Campoli are young – smooth skaters who can jump in offensively and guys like Witt, Martinek, and Sutton are solid veterans who aren’t shy of physical play. They use their bodies to do everything in their power to prevent shots and passes from getting through, which was something the team sorely missed against the Flyers.
Moving into this afternoons game against Carolina – the front half of a rare home and home series, it is an extremely important game and a very valuable 4 points up for grabs. New Jersey defeated Toronto last night, the Flyers topped the Senators yesterday afternoon and Boston jumped ahead also defeating the Rangers 3-1. If the Islanders wish to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to capitalize and play their game against the Canes. Hopefully the return of Witt and Marty elevate the play of their teammates.
As I said I would, I uploaded the photos from the Flyers game, check out the gallery for the new photos. I will be at the game this afternoon – and I will likely make it over to the Blog Box for the 3rd period. Look for some updates from the game!