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Well here we are, three home games and six games overall remaining in the race for Tavares last stretch of the season. Tampa, having only six points on the Islanders before last night, lost in overtime to the Devils and gained a point in the standings – giving us a seven point cushion. It is certainly imperative that we do not win tonight as the Lightning have a pretty tough schedule to finish out their season. I am sorry to say that (about gaining very few points from here on out) and I know I will continue to catch hell for it, I just feel it’s more important than a feel good win at this juncture. The other team to watch (and root for) is the Colorado Avalanche who have not won many games in the year 2009. Colorado has 64 points, they are more of a threat to the Isles than Tampa and also have a tough schedule for their remaining games – it will be a tight three-way race for the 30th overall position in the NHL this season.

The Lightning have come to town without their scoring prowess and captain in Vincent Lecavalier, the Islanders are another team with a ridiculous amount of many injuries and have recalled five from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for tonight’s game. In the latest string of injuries, Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo each suffered groin injuries, Dean MacAmmond is out with what is described as “an illness” and Andy Hilbert suffered a rib injury against Montreal on Thursday. Taking their places – Mitch Fritz, Mike Iggulden, Jesse Joensuu and Joel Rechlicz and defenseman Jamie Fraser. Here is the official Islanders press release that came into my inbox about 40 minutes ago:

The New York Islanders have recalled forwards Mitch Fritz, Mike Iggulden, Jesse Joensuu and Joel Rechlicz and defenseman Jamie Fraser from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis. All five will be in the Islanders’ lineup tonight when they take the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Fraser will make his NHL debut, marking the 12th Islander to appear in his first career game this season. The 23-year-old Sarnia native has played in 63 games with Bridgeport this season, recording seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points and 28 penalty minutes. He also ranks fourth on the team with a +12 plus/minus rating. Fraser was signed by the Islanders as an undrafted free agent on December 30, 2006.

Fritz, Joensuu and Rechlicz all made their NHL debuts earlier this season. Iggulden had appeared in one game prior to 2008-09, but made his debut as an Islander on March 7th against New Jersey.

Fritz has played in 16 games with the Islanders, recording 33 penalty minutes. In 36 contests with Bridgeport, he has two assists and 58 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut on October 30th at Philadelphia.

Iggulden has appeared in nine games with the Islanders, recording one goal and four assists for five points. He currently leads Bridgeport with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) in 69 contests this season.

Joensuu has played in four games with the Islanders, scoring his first NHL goal in his first game on March 2nd versus Colorado. In 68 games with Bridgeport, he has 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points and a team-leading +21 rating.

Rechlicz made his NHL debut on March 5th versus the New York Rangers and recorded an assist for his first point. He has appeared in 12 games with the Islanders, recording 44 penalty minutes. He has also played in four games with Bridgeport recording 12 penalty minutes in addition to playing in 45 games with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL recording one assist and 110 penalty minutes.

Some stats per Newsday’s Greg Logan on the debute of Jamie Fraser: “After a recount and the addition of Fraser, the accurate numbers are 12 players making their NHL debuts and 16 rookies who have played [this season.]”

Twelve players making their NHL DEBUT and 16 rookies total suiting up for the Islanders? When Garth Snow proclaimed over the summer that this was the chance to see what prospects the team had in their system, I really doubt he had this in mind. Injuries aside, do you feel that this years Islanders team could have done something different if their actual team was able to grow and learn under the tutelage of Scott Gordon?

I don’t think it would have made much of a difference, it could have meant that we would have seen more veteran players shipped out in order to make room for prospects down the stretch. Sure, the team would have been able to gel a bit and learn the system and build chemistry, but I did not see them getting farther than the 8th seed and a early playoff exit. At least now that the injury situation has “happened”, the team will bear the fruits of an extremely deep and important draft – perhaps one of the most important in franchise history.

This is a saga that will be extremely interesting to see how it plays out and tonight’s episode is certainly a key juncture in what happens at the upcoming draft lottery.

Live Tracker

Here is the live tracker for tonight’s game, I will be bouncing around the Coliseum as always. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates or the occasional photo.