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Captain Jack SparrowNo, that is not a misprint. It seems that the Islanders have encountered one of the best festivals in sunny Tampa this weekend. It’s called the Gasparilla festival and it involves pirates, pirate ships, pirate wenches, beer, liquor and all things associated with such. Think of it of a Las Vegas or New Orleans environment – but on the water in a beach town setting.

If you think it is all fun and games, clear it is not if you are a visiting NHL club looking for some rest before a game. If you happened to catch Corey Witt’s blog from earlier today – the team was woken up by canons firing and boat horns blaring. He also talks about an elevator ride with a pirate and two of his lasses. Hopefully they boys do not drink before a game, it’s bad enough they get injured without being hung over or intoxicated. Unlike our Islanders team and media guys – I got to sleep in and only woke up because I was hot, being it’s about 50 degrees here today and my heat was set a bit too high.

Moving on to the hockey side of this post – a quick recap of the past few games.

Islanders vs Lighting: Win at Home 3-1

The last time that Tampa and the Islanders played was on Tuesday – think of tonight’s game as a delayed home and home. The Islanders did well against the Bolts, scoring three goals in just over three minutes and chasing rookie netminder Kari Ramo. We would see goals by Mark Streit, Trent Hunter and a player who had not scored in over two seasons – Radek Martinek. Martinek’s goal was just as strange feeling as when Brendan Witt scores his annual goal – a feat he has yet to accomplish this season, but has come awfully close. For the third straight game, Yann Danis would carry a shutout into the third period only to lose it late in the game, it’s not really the biggest deal because he has been playing very well – but it would be nice to see him get the no-no. The Islanders would win the game 3-1, but would lose their go-to defenseman in Mark Streit – whom at that point was one of only three Islanders to play in every game the entire season. Streit injured his shoulder during the second period in a collision and Tomas Pock was lost for four weeks after injuring his hand. While Okposo did not score and we saw his goal streak snapped, he did pick up and assist and extended his point streak to five games (5g, 1a). The kids continue to shine.

I wanted to give this next bit a paragraph all to itself because I felt it was really important. In the first period Tim Jackman went hard to the net and collided with Ramo whom fell over as if he was shot. Of all people to stand up and challenge Jackman – Vincent Lecavalier tried to fire his team up by dropping the gloves. The fight wasn’t really much to speak about, but it left me feeling conflicted – apparently Jacko as well. I didn’t get the chance to speak to him after the game, but it was clear he showed respect (and restraint) by not really pummeling him as he is capable of. It’s one thing when it’s two enforcers duking it out, it become something else entirely when it’s you are fighting one of the leagues superstars. Do you really risk injuring the player or do you just wrestle and throw a few punches as they wound up doing.

You can see the fight as always on Hockey Fights, but here is the youtube clip:

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Islanders vs Panthers: Loss on Road 3-2

The trip out to the sunshine state usually involves the fathers making the trip with their sons, this year is no different it’s just unfortunate that they opened their little road trip on a loss. The Islanders would elect to start Joey MacDonald whom returned from a groin injury suffered on January 13th and also feature two call up defenseman in Jack Hillen and Joe Callahan. They would look to extend their win streak to a season high five games and a point streak to six games.

The Panthers are another team that the Islanders have faced recently, the Cats were in town on 1/31 and the Islanders walked all over them in a 3-1 win. The game on Thursday started a little later than we are used to, even though it was only a half hour later – I still didn’t manage to stay up for the entire contest. From what I did see, I saw the Islanders struggle against a team that looks much better when David Booth is in the lineup. I am sure Nate Thompson feels the same way – Thompson took a big open ice hit from Booth and immediately left the ice in pain. We would later find out that he injured his shoulder and would miss some time. The Panthers took an early lead, going up two goals before the end of the first period on goals by their defensemen – Jay Bouwmeester and Karlis Skrastins (Scratch and Sniff).

The Islanders would get on the board in the second period on a power play goal by Josh Bailey. Bailey had gone 11 games without a goal, but would get his second of the season on a nice feed from Nielsen and fire it past Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun low glove side. The one goal deficit would be short lived however, as ex-Isle Richard Zednik would beat Martinek along the boards and dance to the middle of the ice and OVER a sprawled out Brendan Witt, while mid air he was able to deposit the puck through MacDonald’s pads to give the Cats their second two goal lead of the game. The goal was highlight worthy, and those plays are kind of hard to be mad at – see for yourself:

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Armed with another power play, the Islanders would strike again – this time Trent Hunter would find himself all alone in front of Vokoun and again make it a one goal game. On the face off that lead to the goal, Josh Bailey would lose the draw but out of desperation dive forward and chip the puck out to Hunter who would deposit it backhand past Vokoun. Hunters goal gives him points in four straight games (3g, 1a) and also Bailey his second point of the night. It was Bailey’s third time this season with a two-point game and he now has 2 goals and 13 assists for 15 points in 37 games.

I missed a majority of the third period because I fell asleep, but I saw the Islanders make a last ditch effort to get the equalizer with MacDonald pulled. It was exciting to wake up and see some good hockey – but they were unable to score. It snapped their win streak – but I was ok with the effort I saw after the first period and happy with the play of the young players again.

Tonight’s Tampa Re-Match

Tonight should prove to be a fun contest to watch as you know the Lightning will come out with intensity looking for revenge against the Isles for their performance last week. The Bolts are not too far removed from the tight Eastern Conference playoff picture should they string together a group of wins – they need tonight’s two points a lot more then the Islanders do.

Greg Logan
reports in his blog today that Sean Bergenheim will replace the injured Nate Thompson – which sort of confuses me a bit. It was said in all the games that Bergy was scratched he was out with an injured “side” – to me it just seems per Logan’s blog that he was more of a healthy scratch. Whatever the case, Bergenheim, does possess more of a scoring touch than Thompson but is not a centerman – so there will need to be some line juggling. MacDonald didn’t play too bad on Thursday – but coming off an injury will the team decide to give him a rest and go with Danis tonight?

I am still really conflicted with this team – which sounds confusing. As a fan, I have accepted the fact that this team really won’t amount to anything come playoff time – I know they won’t even be close. They also had a horrible stretch of hockey that only saw them win maybe two or three games through December and much of January. It was nice to see a nice little stretch of wins – especially at home because it gives us a look at the kids progressing nicely and how they will help in the future. This is where I get conflicted, I want them to finish dead last in the league with the fewest points as I want them to have the best shot at either Tavares or Hedman. If this team finishes with the fewest amount of points, the lowest we can pick is number two – because we cannot move down any more than one position should we wind up not picking first due to the lottery. There will still be great players available in the top six picks, but this team needs someone who will sell tickets and give hope to a fan base dealing with politicians who are balking and stalling on a decision regarding a new arena and rumors that the team will be sold and/or moved.

It’s a rough time to be a fan of the Islanders for sure, but it’s sadly an exciting time in a way.