I <i><b>knew </b></i>it would come, of course ... eventually ... (and I'm not talking about the Islanders next game, though it does seem like, oh, I don't know, <i>ABOUT SIX <b>YEARS </b>SINCE THEIR LAST ONE</i>!) I digress ...
I knew that, inevitably, the first Isles/Lightning game of the year would arrive and that I may have to field all sorts of questions about my allegiance(s) once again. You see, through and through, I am an Islander fan - always have been. This was chronicled in my <a href="http://www.hockeybuzz.com...">first</a>
and <a href="http://www.hockeybuzz.com...quot;>second</a>
Lightning blogs and was made blatantly obvious, though I wasn't exactly trying to hide anything, when I <b><i>forgot </i></b>to change my avatar from the Isles logo to my - <i>ahem </i>- pretty face. <i><b>Doh</b></i>!
All I can say is that my triumverate hierarchy of hockey priorites goes like this: Hockey in general, the Islanders (from a fan's perspective) and the Lightning (professionally, with the slight twinkle of a fan's eye as well.)
So, when a night like tonight pops up - Lightning at Islanders, 7:00 pm - at least a part of me <i><b>cringes </b></i>...
Fans of both teams have reason to be optimistic about tonight's contest.
For the Islanders, for starters, they're simply happy to be <i><b>playing</b></i>. The schedule finally heats up a bit in November after just 9 October contests. Other than that:
***Tonight will be Mike Sillinger's 1,000th National Hockey League game and, surely, the boys will want to make it a 'W' for Silly.
***The Isles were drubbed in their last game (way back in October of 1974, so it seems) 8-3 at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes and will look to rebound.
***This being the second of back-to-back games for Tampa, the idea of Marc Denis in the opposing goal is always appetizing.
***Despite the second of two long layoffs between games, the Isles are just 4 points behind Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.
***Finally, the Lightning are now 0-5 on the road this season.
While the Isles might be licking their chops to pounce on a reeling foe, this Bolts team will be hungry for their first road win, so I'd hesitate to put this one <i><b>solely </b></i>in the positive column for the Islanders.
On the other hand, that's where we lead off, from a Lightning perspective, as far as optimism for this evening goes:
***Let's face it, they'll <i><b>have </b></i>to win a road game at some point and the night after getting <i><b>shellacked </b></i>in New Jersey is probably as good as any.
***Plus, the Islanders just keep getting <i><b>trounced </b></i>by teams a night or two after their opposition has been <i><b>slaughtered </b></i>by someone else. Toronto got <i><b>killed </b></i>7-1 by Carolina on October 9th and then <i><b>hammered </b></i>the Isles 8-1 a couple of nights later. The 'Canes were <i><b>dusted </b></i>by Montreal 7-4 just 24 hours before their 8-3 Islander beatdown. Now the Bolts come to town after a whooping in New Jersey looking to get back home with their first road win in tow.
Aside from that:
***Vinny Lecavalier continues to pile up points, scoring in his last 4 games, raising his season totals to 7-6-13.
***And Dan Boyle is back, playing a tad over 20 minutes last night.
***Despite their road woes, the Lightning remains in 2nd place in the Southeast division, though some significant breathing room is beginning to develop between 1st and 2nd, with Carolina 6 points ahead of Tampa.
So, now that both teams are coming off of one-sided losses in their last games, what can we expect? A great hockey game with some real solid, gutsy play from both sides, I hope!
My prediction, you ask?
Nah ... I'm not touching that one ... no way ...
Enjoy the game!