Being that the Islanders are going to play host to the Detroit Red Wings tonight, I knew right away that Chris Osgood would be in the building. It was then posted on Twitter and Chris Botta's blog at Islanders Point Blank that Ozzie will not be the only former Islander returning to the Coliseum tonight. Kenny Jonsson will be in attendance as a fan to support his former team.
In 2001-2002, Chris Osgood and Kenny Jonsson were two major components of the team that redefined the New York Islanders and put them back on the NHL map. In the prior season of 2000-2001, the Islanders finished dead last in the league. They rebounded the following year with the additions of Michael Peca, Chris Osgood, Alexei Yashin and Adrian Aucoin, just to name a few. They were competitive. They were far from perfect, but they were good enough to finish fifth in the East, just a point shy of second overall in the Eastern Conference.
I remember that year so clearly because it was the first year that I followed Islanders hockey better than anything else. I knew statistics off the back of my hand; I knew their schedule weeks and weeks in advance; I knew every player's past history as far as injuries, teams played and hot/cold streaks...it was literally all I cared about.
Jonsson was on the team for a few more years after that season, but Ozzie departed mid-way through 2002-2003 via trade to the St. Louis Blues since he started to struggle in net. Although the trade was necessary, Chris Osgood is one of the more memorable goaltenders for this club as he was a vital piece in restoring a winning tradition back to Long Island.
Kenny, on the other hand, was here for many of the bad years and barely got to enjoy the good years. He opted to return to Sweden once his contract expired and spent the rest of his career in his home country before hanging up the skates in retirement. Many of today's fans aren't aware of No. 29's contributions as one of the most reliable defenseman in Islanders history. I cannot remember the coach who made this claim, but I do remember hearing that he felt that Kenny was as talented defensively as Nick Lidstrom but was not nearly as recognized because he did not have the same offensive ability. You can argue that this may sound too extreme, but if you watched the way he played back in the day, you too would understand why someone would make this observation.
Although it will be somewhat of a nostalgic evening for me, the big picture is still at hand with the Islanders sitting 2 points out of the playoffs. Sean Bergenheim returns to the line-up, Tambellini goes back to the press-box and Brendan Witt will join him as a healthy scratch...err...I mean player on the Injured Reserve. Yeah, Brendan Witt was reported to have some minor calf-tightness by Scott Gordon which has magically turned into an injury that will keep him on the IR. The Islanders will have to figure out what to do with their roster by the time Witt returns because with he will put them over the 23-man limit at 24.
Does that mean a trade is coming? Andrew MacDonald will be demoted? Or will someone else suddenly get injured?
Personally, I hope it's a trade. MacDonald has become one of our strongest defensive D-men over the past few weeks. He's showing up Bruno Gervais on a nightly basis and has even diminished Witt's ice-time to around the 11-minute mark. AMac has been pulling in close to 20 minutes a night.
For those of you hoping to see another DP appearance, don't look for it tonight. Roly is in goal against his former Western Conference foes. I'll be in the Blog Box tonight and should have a story up about tonight's game some time tomorrow if not sooner.
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