Staggering Isles host Habs


The Canadiens try build on their dominant performance against Carolina to win their second in a row and get points in their fifth consecutive game when they travel to Long Island on Thursday to take on the Islanders, the last place team in the East.

What can you say about the poor Islanders that hasn’t already been regurgitated hundreds of times? They are stuck in an obsolete arena, have the league’s lowest payroll and — despite rosy predictions at the season’s outset that this club could be a playoff contender — they are in great danger of sinking into their annual early season free-fall that effectively eliminates them from the postseason before the holidays.

They have won only one game of their last 11, getting only five of a possible 22 points, and have scored just 20 goals during that slide. This comes after winning three of four to start the season.

They have scored only 31 goals, lowest in the league (although they have also played the fewest games, but still average 2.07 goals a game, 29th in the league), they allow 3.70 goals a game (23rd), have yet to win on the road, have been shut out three times (tied for worst in the league), have no players with a positive plus-minus rating and — while they have a talented group of youngsters (especially up front), battle hard most nights and are in lots of games — they sadly usually end up playing just well enough to lose.

They are not pushovers however. They have talented skaters throughout the lineup, many of whom are mired in slumps.

The Isles problems start in goal where a dreaded three-headed monster dwells and each of the trio is fighting for games. Evgeni Nabokov, who lost to the Rangers on Tuesday 4-2 (including an empty-netter) has dropped three straight, so its possible either the oft-injured Rick DiPietro or Al Montoya could be in there on Thursday. Montoya, the surprise performer last season, is statistically the best of the three, but DiPietro has the bazillion dollar contract that extends into the 23rd Century and could get the call.

Most observers believe the Isles will eventually trade Nabokov to a club (Toronto? Columbus? Colorado?) in need of goaltending and, with the team sliding, there is some impatience that GM Garth Snow hasn’t yet voted Nabby off the Island to get a solid blueliner. Nothing has yet come of that.

The problems are compounded by a defence corps that is not blessed with great speed or mobility as a whole. Nor are they an especially physical group (and neither are the forwards). Captain and former Hab Mark Streit still moves the puck well, has his big shot and logs the most ice time. He’s got a goal and nine assists to lead the d-men. He’s also a team worst minus-8. With the exception of 21-year-old sophomore Travis Hamonic, who seems to have leveled off after a good rookie year, the remainder of the defenceman are vets who might be depth guys on other teams.

Up front, the line of John Tavares between Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner would be a legitimate top unit for most NHL clubs. Small second line centre Frans Neilson has been one of the Isles’ hottest scorers (6 points in the last five games) during this slide and his winger P.A. Parenteau, who the Isles rescued from the Rangers farm system a couple of years ago, ha also put up points. But after that, the secondary scoring the Islanders expected to find has dried up.

GM Garth Snow hoped veteran ex-Devil Brian Rolston would provide some punch, but he’s produced little (2g, 2a). But most culpable are youngsters considered building blocks of the Isles’ future, like Kyle Okposo (0g, 3a), Blake Comeau (no points) and Josh Bailey (1g, 1a). They have been major disappointments for coach Jack Capuano in the early going and he scratched Okposo, a former first rounder, for the Rangers game, the first time Okposo has been scratched in the NHL.

Nineteen-year-old power forward Nino Niederreiter, played his first game of the season vs. the Rangers this week after a preseason injury and AHL rehab assignment. He dressed instead of Okposo and he’ll likely be in the lineup against Canadiens. The fifth overall pick in 2010, Niederreiter had played nine games for the Isles last fall prior to going back to junior.

The Islanders power play is not bad, ranked 12th at 18 percent. Their penalty kill is less successful, 20th in the league at 81.1 percent.

This is how the Isles lined up against the Rangers on Tuesday, but expect changes, with Okposo dressed and someone else, perhaps Bailey, in the press box.

Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Michael Grabner
Brian Rolston, Frans Nielsen, P.A. Parenteau
Blake Comeau, Marty Reasoner, Nino Niederreiter
Matt Martin, Josh Bailey, Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit, Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hamonic
Milan Jurcina, Mike Mottau

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya


  1. The Dude says:

    Tonight Gomez will score a goal….ya heard it here fans!

  2. Hab-Q says:

    I never understood why Taveres signed long term with this train wreck of a team.

    It’s Rick Nash redux.

    “I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out”

    ~Rodney Dangerfield

  3. Bugs says:

    If those Isles think they’ve been staggered already, they be in for some serious display of said staggerin tonight, the nec plus ultra of staggerfication, knowumsayn?
    That’s right: unnnh! (Zorro finger-snap)

    Back from the Brink’s boasts L. B. Potter, esq.

  4. Ghosts of the Forum says:

    A lot of teams close to the Habs are playing Western conference teams tonight for all you scoreboard watchers. Go West Go!!

    Columbus at Boston (one can dream…)
    Florida at St. Louis
    Toronto at Nashville
    Ottawa at Edmonton

    and to a lesser extent

    Pittsburgh at TB (not chasing the Pens just yet…)

  5. Higman says:

    just have to say this…

    “Optimus Rhime”


    “The Monster”

    Ha ha ha, seriously. Good start for the Leafs, yes. But playoff contender?? I’m sorry, I love those nick names for their goalies. Inspiring!

    When the tough gets going, the laughs start flowing. Like Price said, “Chill.”

  6. JD_ says:

    Don’t know about you, but I thought Streit was excellent in The Professional.

    What a miserable mess on Long Island. Captain Streit might have the worst +/- on the team, but what would you expect for a guy who logs the most ice time on a squad that has, on average, been outscored by almost two goals every game this season?

    Also gotta feel a bit of sympathy for Rolston, who was the odd-man out the moment NJ signed Kovy II to that effinillion dollar contract that extends well beyond Apokálypsis. Take that, Stu Hackel.

    I don’t believe the Isles’ problems really start in goal, although that is obviously an overhang. Not unlike TB durin’ the Koules-Barrie era, the one that put a convicted felon behind the bench, the issue on Long Island begins with the erratic and often inept ownership of Charles Wang.

    Everythin’ follows from that. And I’d argue, much as I did with TB, that nothin’ will really change until that problem is fixed.

    The Islanders are one of those rare pro sports franchises that has earned the right to call itself a one-time dynasty. The kind of powerhouse that could rationalize retirin’ Clark Gillies’ jersey; Mario Tremblay must be shakin’ his head.

    And it deserves better.

    Someone is eventually gonna come along and scoop that thing up, bring some earnest and thoughtful leadership to the org, and make a bundle, at least on paper. For the sake of the long-sufferin’ fans, and the preservation of the team’s legacy, I hope it doesn’t necessarily entail the team leavin’ its home.

    And, although I’m fairly certain they won’t, the Habs better not take them lightly, tonight. I’m just not prepared to sit throught that movie, again.

  7. edgar_falcon says:

    so here’s something interesting, so far habs have a player in the top 20 for every category except points in which pleks is tied for 29th. haven’t seen that happen in a while even with a parade to the injury list. (although the four players on that list are pleks patches gorges and price none of which have been injured yet this season)

    “Don’t get me wrong, I have all the respect in the world for them. They have good players and they’re good at what they do. But playing against them is so boring. They should have to pay for coffee for our fans to help them stay awake.” Higgins (I’m paraphrasing), on the NJ Devils.

  8. Rad says:

    Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole. It’s all good in Habsland, at least until tonight, and then I want Martin and Gomez sent to Hamilton for further training to see if they can crack the Bigs one day — with another team.

  9. The Dude says:

    Man the Habs couldn’t buy a better back to back series”CAins& Isles”!.Please don’t flub it tonight. Looking forward to the ranger & Bruins games.

  10. Ghosts of the Forum says:

    Games like this scare me — struggling opponent, back-to-back games…have to be really fired up and come out hard right away. Two points we should not give away. Let’s hope they’re fired up. It’s nice having Budaj. Auld was steady and good, but Budaj gives the impression he can steal one or two for us on top of being steady. Interesting to see how much he was talking with the shooters last night.

  11. avatar_58 says:

    So what happens to Gomez by season’s end, realistically?

  12. TOP DAWG says:

    I see that Mr. Shaker had no reason to pick on Mr. Price last night.

    “If you’re not the TOP DAWG, the view never changes”

  13. Josh says:

    Trust me when I say this, I not at all a big JM fan.

    But let’s face it he’s done a great job, for a coach with so many players on the shelf. I don’t know about you guys but, I love the way Emelin has been playing. I think we have a cup contender here. The only thing we need is to add 1 more depth forward. GO Habs GO

  14. Ghosts of the Forum says:

    Fellas in my hockey pool are letting us do a drop/take — so I can correct an egregious wrong I made at the beginning of the season and replace Gomez with Desharnais.

  15. Habman1977 says:

    Hi all,

    Got me 2 tickets to the November 26th game (Molson Ex zone) against the Pens that I won’t be able to make and looking to move at cost (premium game) and shipping (in Kitchener).

    Email me if interested: kwm365 at gmail dot com

  16. Duke_Rauol says:

    Does Budaj get the start tonight?

    We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold……

    • GenerationYHabs says:

      Yes, according to RDS.

      • Duke_Rauol says:

        Thanks, looking at the schedule, Id like to see Carey play the Rangers and B’s, Budaj against the Canes. Then Carey could play the Flyers and Pens with 3 days off after.

        We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold……

  17. Ian Cobb says:

    Erik Cole taunting Ruuto of the Canes while he’s in the sin bin. Is Cole talking money?

  18. sag says:

    Streit’s head shots are just begging to have a photoshopped beret on top.

  19. Habitoban says:

    I’m not a JM fan but I’m prepared to give him some credit: (1) putting Cole on the PP; (2) getting Emelin out of the press box and on to the ice; and (3) keeping Darche off the PP. Now why didn’t we think of those moves?

  20. The Islanders power play is not bad, ranked 12th at 18 percent. Their penalty kill is less successful, 20th in the league at 81.1 percent.

    We can probably help them out with that penalty kill stat.

  21. rhino514 says:

    Forget the musings over what a pleasant surpise Pax has been, what a pleasant surprise Eller has been, etc. There have been no real surprises up to now. Granted, we weren´t quite sure Max Pac could pick it up where he left off after the injury, so somewhat of a surprise. Eller is not playing as well as everybody says he is, though he is doing some good defensive work.

    The biggest pleasant surprise of note to date was the play of Emelin last night. He played like a good top four defenseman. I think the presence of Markov will make a BIG difference.
    The only weak link on this Habs team, apart from constant injuries, is lack of depth on defence, particulary physical defense.
    If Emelin continues to progress at this pace, that problem will be taken care of by season´s end.
    I wasn´t a fan of Weber heretofore, but with that shot I think overall he is not a terrible top six, though he won´t be there if Emelin keeps playing like that. But the great thing about Weber is you can keep him as the twelfth forward and then you have a third point threat on the power play
    If they can just hang around the 500 mark until Markov gets back they are in great shape.

    p.s. WHEN healthy, Cammalleri is still the team´s best natural sniper and a lock for 30-35 if he plays a full season. But I don´t think he will ever play a full season. Who cares, as long as we have him for the playoffs.

  22. Marc10 says:

    Here’s thought. You bury Gomer in Ham and you make Carolina an offer for Staal. The guy is minus 18 or thereabouts and their season is heading South.

    So the question is, would you trade say Eller and a first rounder to make that happen or say goodbye to Gallagher or Beaulieu with picks…?

    Eric Staal. He’s a talented big center. Hmmm…. and if I’m Carolina, I’d be listening to offers. They have to think ‘rebuild’ around their man Skinner.

    • PureGuava says:

      Staal is 27 yrs old, has a cup and gold medal, has played hockey all of his life, and has made 30 million dollars thus far to play it. He has a young family – one child, and another on the way…I get the feeling that the one place the man doesn’t want to be near right now is a hockey rink.

      Think about it…he’s worked hard for 20 yrs and won the lottery. What’s he playing for?

      “Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
      – Robert Anton Wilson

      • Tony McLean says:

        Staal’s very passionate but he’s fried now, blown a fuse. Losing and a messed up team and ineffectual coach have got him in a terrible state. They’d be crazy to trade him and I don’t believe they will. He’s the franchise. Rutherford’s gonna blow it up, fire Maurice etc. Can’t believe Staal won’t be there when the GM retools.
        Hats off to Eddie Palchak.

    • habs03 says:

      a 1st, Eller, Gallagher and Gomez for Stall.

      Hell ya!!!!!!!

      They would take Gomez, they have to get over the cap floor, and they would like that he is only being paid an Avg of 5M but with a 7+ cap hit.


    • WindsorHab-10 says:

      I love the idea of Gomer in Hamilton. At $7M+, he’s killing us & there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Will management wake up & make the move? Stay tuned.

      “Hate Bruins like a sickness”

      • Hard4Habs says:

        I posted this about Gomez on another thread but here goes again. Everything negative to say about Gomez has already been said, his salary will not change either so let’s be optimistic. You might think I’m crazy for thinking this, but now is not the time to get rid of Gomez.

        Call Gomez a “long term investment”; similar to buying jewelry or gold (you must think I’m retarded by now). By keeping Gomez and his cap hit, this gives management time to evaluate this team and it’s young core. What I mean is, instead of freeing up that space now to reinvest it into old washed up veterans whom could help this team on the short term, they just keep Gomez and his cap hit. This releaves the pressure to use that cap room somewhere else. So instead of having the Metropolits, Halperns and Dominic Moores of this world, you let the young players get their ice time and develop. That way, when the time comes to sign Price, Subban, Maxpac etc. All you have to do is get rid of Gomerz’s cap hit to give them their well deserved salary augmentation. It’s a win-win, Gomez might not play like an 8 million player, but he sure as hell gives you good minutes on the bottom 2 lines and the penalty kill. Plus, if we cant seem to set up a powerplay break-in, the Gomez option is always there. And I would feel more comfortable going into the playoffs with a veteran guy like Gomez on the roster than without him.

        • Tony McLean says:

          Gomez never should have been brought back this year, he’s a cancer. A dead animal in the dressing room and worse on the ice. I don’t spend time sticking pins in his voodoo doll like some people but his time is up, he stinks and shame on Gainey and Gandhi Gauthier for continuing the charade. What a disaster.
          Hats off to Eddie Palchak.

          • Hard4Habs says:

            Not disagreeing that it was a bad move, but everything negative about Gomez has already been said and/or speculated, it’s getting redundant. And it hurts now more then ever, seeing how well Mcdonnagh has been playing…wonder if we could have made the same trade with Fisher instead of Mcdonnagh at that time. And I’m curious to know how you get your insight of the dressing room. It’s hard to believe that on top of everything, Gomez is a cancer within the team (off the ice). We usually deal with those types of players. I.e. Grabovski, Ribeiro and SK74 to name just a few.

          • db says:

            I think the reason he’s still on the team is because he’s NOT a cancer and has probably helped the young centers take his spot. There was no reason to think he would stink as bad this year after he called himself out. Of course, if he’s on the team next year then we need a new GM. He seems OK with Darche and Nokia for now…

  23. Marc10 says:

    I noticed Yemmy the Tank last night especially how he out muscles most guys and lays the smack down. It’s refreshing and very much needed. But that guy that impressed me most was Gorges. He played his best game in a good long while. He was fantastic. As Ron Fournier said in the post game, PG should sign him. He deserves a three year deal.

    And again… DD. I love the hands, the creativity. When Markov returns to the PP, the payoff this little magician brings as our resident PP playmaker could well shut the naysayers up (no chance… but we can dream!)

    And while we’re at it… let’s send some love to Paloosh! All he needs to do is play 35 second shifts with the foot down and he can play in this league. He sure had the Canes reaching all game to haul him down.

  24. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …Always wonderment why a GM would sign any player for more than 5 years …so many things can change or go wrong in such time

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY

  25. V says:

    Great to see Martin’s use of Emelin is paying off… a good game for him last night. Emelin deserves a lot of credit as well for using his opportunity so well.

    Emelin’s getting the same strong hand Eller and Subban have used to be much better players and based on last night’s performance, it might be starting to show results.

    • Bob_Sacamano says:

      Come on, two injuries less and Emelin would still be in the pressbox. JM deserves absolutely no credit here.

      If three of the four injured dman Campoli, Gill, Spacek and Markov are back, Emelin will very likely be watching again from the pressbox as Martin prefers his soft veterans.

  26. Da Hema says:

    Thanks for the “scouting report” Stu.

    That gazillion-dollar DiPietro contract actually provides some comparative perspective on Gomez’s contract. I have little respect for Gomez, but I guess it could be worse.

  27. DLN-CH4Life says:

    A Second W Can do good for this young CH team.
    Shift By Shift is what i’ve been working on since the beginning of the season.
    Forget who we’re playing next week or next game.
    What do YOU have to do next shift!


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