I can't remember the last time the Islanders had their first game of the season be their home opener. If my memory serves me correctly, they usually started on the road, but tonight they have the privilege of opening up in front of their home town fans. Lucky for us we get to watch them start against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
The lines are predicted as follows:
Sim - Bailey - Hunter
Moulson - Tavares - Okposo
Tambellini - Park - Bergenheim
Rechlicz - Thompson - Jackman
According to Chris Botta's blog, www.islanderspointblank.com
, these lines were set like this in practice since Comeau, Weight, and Schremp will be sitting out tonight's game. Weight has not practiced enough since his injury and neither has Schremp since being newly acquired. Comeau is sick. In a few days they should be back.
Going off on a slight tangent here - I think the Schremp pick up was a smart move by Snow. Being that Franz is going to be out for a while, a center was needed on the roster. Nate Thompson won't cut it on a regular basis, in my opinion anyway. Schremp has a lot to prove as he is fully capable of scoring at the AHL level but really has not been given much of a shot at the big show. He finally has his chance. It's up to him on whether or not he'll be another Tambellini or the player he was predicted to become.
Also I am very happy to see that Doug Weight has been named captain. Although Streit possesses leadership ability, it's hard to ignore a guy that has been around the league as long as he has. Plus he's a contributor, vocal player, and has won a Stanley Cup. Sounds like the right choice. Even if he's only here for this year, or even if he returns for one more, he'll be setting an example for players like Streit or Okposo to eventually captain this team once he moves on.
But back to tonight...
John Tavares will get his first taste of legitimate NHL hockey. He will be facing off against Sidney Crosby, a former first overall pick who has more or less saved the Penguins franchise, inspired the construction of a new arena that ended up keeping the team in Pittsburgh, and brought them to a Stanley Cup championship in just a few years.
Ahem...starting to see where this is going?
John Tavares isn't Sidney Crosby, and he most likely will not be that type of player. Crosby's and Ovechkin's are one-in-a-million. But that doesn't mean Tavares isn't going to be the player this franchise revolves around. Yes, DP has been the face with his 15-year deal and many will argue that goaltending is the most important position in hockey. But you also need someone to score goals.
Tavares adds to a set of already skilled young forwards in Bailey, Okposo, Nielsen, and Bergenheim. (I'm omitting Tambellini for the time being but hope that he has a successful year and gets himself into this list because he is very talented, he just needs to finish) This could be, and should be, the year in which the youth movement takes a big step forward. That doesn't mean playoffs. It just means we see a team start to develop consistency. Where these guys that have been mentioned, especially the sophomores, step up and become leaders and find their role with the team.
I'm not going to go into the political Lighthouse babble that is circulating around tonight's main event. But you have to see that this game is more than just Tavares vs. Crosby. It digs much deeper. This is a cry for help. This is Garth Snow showing the Town of Hempstead, the fans, and the whole league that he is trying to return this team back to what it used to be in the 80's; that he's following the mold of the Penguins to develop from within to keep this team on Long Island where it belongs.
In a few years this team can be the Penguins. The quest to restore and salvage greatness on Long Island officially starts tonight.