Every now and then one or two (or in the Islanders case SEVEN) of your players will go down to injury. Luckily, the Islanders are fortunate enough to have their minor league affiliate an hours drive away. With rookie Kyle Okposo down and out with an arm/hand injury for about a week – enforcer Mitch Fritz has been recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With
one call up, two call ups comes one activation from the injured reserve, (defenseman Brendan Witt will make his return Friday against the Devils) a conditioning stint (center Mike Sillinger has been cleared to play and has agreed to a three game conditioning stint with Bridgeport) and one goaltender exchange (Yann Danis was returned to Bridgeport for backup of the backup to the backup – Peter Mannino).
A quick listen to the fans around Islanders Nation will tell you they think Fritz is the wrong choice. A player who certainly needs another look is 07/08 standout Blake Comeau, who is playing very well down in B’port (2 goals 9 assists in 13 games). If the schedule were any different the next few days I would completely agree – but obviously I do not.
The Islanders will face several tough opponents in the next three games – New Jersey, Buffalo and Montreal. The key to having Fritz up now is clear, at least to me – New Jersey is still hurting with Brodeur injured and having scoring trouble to boot. Going into a game against them right now is going to be tough without a physical element. Sure, we have players such as Sim, Jackman and Witt (said to be playing limited minutes) – but it’s always great to have a guy you can send out to win key battles. If the past is any indication of the tone the games will have – look no further than the 7-1 pummeling the Sabres handed to the Islanders earlier this year, or the tough physical game the Devils brought to them a few weeks ago. The Islanders will look to exact revenge, no doubt – but they need to continue their stretch of solid hockey. The team has greatly improved their all around game since the first time the team faced these opponents – it is a big weekend for them in a number of ways.
To me the smartest of all these moves is sending Danis down to Bridgeport. Sometimes maybe it takes a former goaltender as the head coach to fully understand what it’s like to go too many games without being tested – much as we saw for long stretches the previous two seasons under Nolan. Gordon is taking a proactive approach to handling this precarious goaltending situation while DiPietro is out – he recognized that one of his backups has been sitting idle too long and wants him fresh – thus the swap. Mannino has been tearing it up down in Bridgeport (6-1-2 record, 2.46 GAA .912 save%) – so it is rewarding for him to get the nod to backup MacDonald.
This is certainly the closest the Islanders have been to being completely healthy in almost a full season – hopefully now that we got through the injury bug early, the team can focus on sticking to their game plan and creeping closer to .500.