The Ducks returned home from a brutal road trip with a pleasantly surprising 3-1 record and some bad news, they may or may not have to go into this game with a goaltending tandem of Jason LaBarbera and Igor Bobkov. Tonight, they welcome in the New York Islanders, who have lost their last three games by a combined score of 12-4 (Winnipeg, 4-3, Colorado 5-0 and San Jose 3-1). Here's Eric's interview with Dominik Janski of Lighthouse Hockey for more on the Islanders...
After years of having Rick DiPietro (AKA @HDumpty39 on twitter, seriously look it up) between the pipes, sometimes, the Islanders finally go into a game with a more stable goaltending situation than their opponent. The goalie hysteria may be a bit blown out of proportion as Bruce Boudreau said after practice yesterday that he expects to start either Freddy or LaBarbera.
In other injury news, Bryan Allen has returned from a conditioning stint in Norfolk, where he played two games with only one shot to show for it on the stats sheet, but no word as of this writing on the likelihood of him getting back in the lineup. Kyle Palmieri (ankle) is getting closer to making his 2014-15 debut, reportedly skating upwards of 40 minutes by himself over the weekend, but will not be ready tonight.
The Islanders play a bit of a run and gun style, most notably in that crazy 7-5 victory over Dallas a few weeks ago, with their top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Cory Conacher backed up by fancystat favorites Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin and other good young players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Franz Nielsen. That spread out offense is balanced out by a defense that still may be figuring itself out with the additions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy just before the start of the season. At 5-on-5, going into tonight's game they have an even goal differential (24 for and against) but their clear weakness is the penalty kill, where they are dead last in the league with only 64.7% effectiveness.
What Can We Learn From This Game?
Obviously, we'll find out at least in part how serious this goaltending situation is. If Freddy is able to start or even backup, the mass chaos will have all been for naught. Otherwise, we'll have to see how LaBarbera fares when a) playing with more than two hours of sleep, b) playing less than three games in three nights and c) facing more than just 18 shots.
Has the pairing of Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen made enough of an impression in two games - which they won, and won the possession, and held the opposition to under two shots in particular periods and contributed offensively - to stay together or even keep Bryan Allen out of the lineup? Also on defense, we may see just how sweet it would have been if the Ducks would have picked up Johnny Boychuk and/or Nick Leddy instead of Clayton Stoner.
Goalie woes spread to the Islanders who are forced to call up David Leggio and he pulls this move again: