January 7, 2011

Oilers End Isles Three Game Win Streak; Injury News

I originally thought that it was good news that the Islanders had two days off after facing so many shots on Monday night in Calgary. But perhaps it was one day too many.

The Isles came out very slow in this game, and within the first four minutes found themselves in a two goal hole that they would not recover from.

After giving up the goals, Nathan Lawson was pulled in favor of Kevin Poulin, who made his NHL debut. Similar to the way Lawson did it in Calgary, the 20 year old Poulin came in and looked very poised. He wasn't tested as much as Lawson was in Calgary, but Poulin did come up with some solid, nice saves - some that most goalies should get, but rookies can have problems with. So that's a good sign.

Lawson wasn't particularly awful in his brief couple of minutes, either. The Oilers' first goal came off of an odd play as Andrew Cogliano's shot careened off the end boards and in front of the net, where Gilbert Brule was sitting virtually all by himself. Both Lawson and defenseman Andrew MacDonald realized where the puck was a tad too late.

The second goal was a good move to the net by Dustin Penner. Milan Jurcina got caught off guard a bit and turned to catch up with Penner but he was already out of reach. It made for a rather easy play as he cut in towards Lawson. Penner has the ability to be an excellent power forward and when he gets his acceleration up to speed, it's tough to stop. Jurcina has to be a little more alert than that there, and Lawson has to make some kind of a confident attempt there, like a poke check. He seemed to be just waiting for Penner to get closer to him but before he had time to think, Penner put the puck by him.

After that, the Islanders finally started to play well. This happened from the five minute mark of the period and on. I was hoping to see the Islanders keep the momentum going into the second, and they did.

The Islanders had some excellent chances on Devan Dubnyk, but he made some good stops and stood tall. The Islanders failed to convert on any of the seven power-play chances that they were given after going a combined 4-for-4 in the last two games. The failed chances included a big 5-on-3 opportunity for 1:33 with less than five minutes remaining in the game. That is something that you absolutely have to cash in on if you plan to win a lot of games in this league. The failure to tie the game there gave Edmonton the 2-1 victory.

Michael Grabner had a breakaway early in the game that he failed to convert on, and that's something that he usually is pretty good at. He knows he has to put that in. If he does there, then the whole complexion is changed as the Isles would have had the quick lead on a fragile Oilers team. Instead, the save was made and the Oilers capitalized quickly after that as they went on to end their seven game losing streak.

The loss wasn't the only bad news the Isles got on Thursday, however. Prior to the game, the Islanders said that Frans Nielsen is day-to-day with a groin tweak and that Mark Eaton had flown back to Long Island where he is diagnosed with a labrum issue in his hip. It's been recommended that he get surgery, but he will seek a second opinion. He is out indefinitely for now, but obviously if he gets the surgery he will be out the year. That's the same thing that Mike Mottau had, and he's out for the year after surgery to repair a hip labrum. Nielsen was more of a game time decision than anything, so despite them taking it day by day, I figure he'll be back Saturday. Rick DiPietro practiced but didn't dress. He's also day-to-day.

If DiPietro can't go against the Avs, then Poulin certainly made his case to get the start. We'll have to see what the decision is there within the next day, and who practices on Friday.



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