February 25, 2012

Isles Win Over Rangers; Rolston Waived; NYI FYI on Sunday

The Islanders latest test came from one of the NHL's top teams and their division rivals, the New York Rangers. On the surface, this game had the makings of a very tough match-up.

But the Islanders got some good news a day before the game when it was announced that both Travis Hamonic and Evgeni Nabokov would be returning to the lineup. Both were integral parts in helping the Islanders to a 4-3 shootout win over their rivals.

 The Rangers didn't play the best that they could, but they definitely had their skating legs on Friday night. The Islanders matched up well with them, and had stretches where they dominated the play. It is a little bit concerning that the game was as close as it was, but the Rangers are where they are for a reason. As Jack Capuano has said numerous times throughout this postseason push, there are no easy games and they are basically playoff games.

Speaking of playoff games, I haven't seen an atmosphere like this one for an Isles vs. Rangers game in quite some time. With both teams playing some good hockey of late, it seems both fan bases are more into the late season get togethers this season. The Islanders needed to keep hope alive with two points and ended up walking away with exactly that. They may not end up making it in, but make no mistake - this was a huge win for a team with a rather fragile psyche in a game that has had the most intensity that many of these young players have seen this late in a season.

The Islanders had a few bad mishaps, such as Steve Staios losing track of Marian Gaborik on his breakaway goal (doesn't it seem like Gabby's good for one a game these days?) and an odd bounce that caromed off of Nabokov and then Hamonic and into the net from Derek Stepan. Both of these Ranger goals came at times when the Islanders had leads and were threatening to bust it wide open.

For Nabokov, it was quite the performance seeing as he hadn't played in a bit. He admitted himself after the game that he definitely felt rusty. That performance wasn't your typical rusty. It was the performance of a guy who's a multi-time Vezina finalist. A far cry from when he was still getting into the groove of things at the beginning of the year and was benched frequently. As of right now, he and P.A. Parenteau are the must-signs as we enter the final days before the NHL trade deadline.

Keeping on Parenteau for a moment, although no Isles fans needed to be reminded we saw once again why he's been so valuable to this team. Parenteau had two goals against his former team and a few nice hits. While he's generally been consistent all year long, he definitely shines in these games. His shootout attempt was a bit weak as he tried to go glove side high on Marty Biron, and that's been Parenteau's spot throughout his career, but he didn't seem to have enough mustard on his shot. That aside, he was a treat to watch during this one.

John Tavares made a few remarkable passes to Parenteau and Matt Moulson. The one to Moulson came after Tavares stopped on a dime behind the net and changed direction to find Moulson in the slot. There aren't many players who can stick handle like that in a small space, but Tavares has done this multiple times the last couple of years.

The Islanders will try to harness the positive vibes coming from this game and take them to Ottawa Sunday afternoon. We all know what happened the last time these two got together. Ottawa, however, will now be without net minder Craig Anderson after he cut himself preparing a meal (a lot of kitchen accidents this year among NHL players).

The Buffalo Sabres got a point in an OT loss to the Rangers on Saturday, while Winnipeg got one of their own against St. Louis. Washington beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is good since there was no three point game there. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning were trampled by Pittsburgh and the Florida Panthers won over Carolina in a shootout as well. The Florida victory puts the Isles back to eight points out of 8th place in the East.

Rolston Waived: The Islanders made some news on Saturday when it was announced that they have waived forward Brian Rolston and recalled David Ullstrom from Bridgeport.

Rolston will likely clear waivers, but is ineligible to play on Sunday. If the Isles decide to put him on re-entry waivers, it's possible he may get picked up by another team for veteran depth on a team gunning for a long playoff run. For Rolston and the Islanders, things just simply weren't working out. Rolston had a bit of a rough game on Friday in what was likely his final as an Islander.

We should find out Monday where Rolston lands, if anywhere. He'd have to be on a roster by then to be eligible for the playoffs.

NYI FYI Sunday: As always, Sean and I will be up to our usual Sunday banter at 11 AM. Be sure to tune in live and participate in the USTREAM chat room as we discuss popular topics and the week that was in Islanders Country.

If you can't hang out with us live, be sure to check out the recording of the show at a later time, also stored on the USTREAM website.



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