The Islanders (3-1-0) have embarked on their first road trip of the season, to a place many of us wish we’ve been with the weather here on Long Island – sunny and warm Florida.
The team will face the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, who only have one win in their first six games (1-3-2). Teams like Tampa are always dangerous because they are desperate clubs and have a hunger that can often consume (pardon the pun) the strongest and hottest clubs.
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano faces his first real challenges of the season – readying his club to face a Lightning team that may look different then the team they rolled over in their last meeting. He may also face a different challenge, in that the Islanders have had five days of downtime since their win over the Rangers last Saturday.
Historically, the Islanders have sometimes struggled in games following playing the Rangers – it’s come to be known as “Rangers Hangover” to both fans and those in the media. Hopefully, the downtime following the game only helps them in this case, although it will clearly prove to be a battle for Capuano – who’s club is riding a three game unbeaten streak.
Will the downtime cool off the white hot trio of Moulson, Tavares (The NHL’s second star of the week this week) and Parenteau? Will Montoya and Nabokov keep the Islanders at the top of the league with second fewest goals allowed (Detroit has the fewest allowed)? Will DiPietro play or dress against either Tampa or the Florida Panthers?
Many questions lie ahead, and if I had the answers – I’d have to play the lottery I suppose.
One thing is a given, the Islanders need the continued strong play of Reasoner, Pandalfo, Staios, Streit, Montoya, and the three guys mentioned earlier – if they want to come out of tonight’s game with two points. They also NEED, Nieslen, Okposo and Grabner to keep up their defensive game – all the while re-kindle their chemistry from last years second half.
If Josh Bailey doesn’t wake up soon – he may find himself swapping stories with Blake Comeau, who was scratched last weekend against the Rangers.
These Islanders aren’t perfect, they’re playing with energy and confidence – but they need the machine firing on all cylinders. The season is early and the kinks will work themselves out – but they need to answer the bell tonight and play a bug game against Tampa. It’s the first step towards showing the rest of the league that the club is on the upswing – and that the post season isn’t as lofty as a goal as everyone makes it out to be.