Last time we saw the Isles it was back in October. Nordstrom got his first goal, the Hawks blew a 1st Period lead and in the end made heavy work of a 3-2 win. Back then the Islanders were expected to be a playoff contender in the East, building off their previous season. Instead they now find themselves propping up the Godawful Metropolitan Division and third-from-bottom in the league.  Which is to say, they suck.

Yet, somehow, they’ve won three of their last four, knocking off the Bruins, Wings and Wild along the way. Any team that has John Tavares is always going to pose some threat. Kyle Okposo is as egregious a snub for the Team USA roster as Bobby Ryan. After those two, though, the cupboard starts getting bare pretty quickly. Frans Nielsen? Michael Grabner? They’re not living up to expectation. Travis Hamonic is a dumpster fire. Their goaltending has ranged from the Bad (Evgeni Nabokov) to the Really Bad (Kevin Poulin). Oh, and they have arch-dickhead Cal Clutterbuck to do whatever it is that he does.

On paper this is a mismatch; the Hawks should tear through Nassau Coliseum like the demolition crews will, next year. But these things don’t always turn out according to plan, as we well know.

The big news in Chicago is that Corey Crawford makes his first start since injuring his groin against the Panthers in December. He’s missed ten straight games so there may be some ring-rust to his game tonight. Hopefully that doesn’t cause anything bad to happen, because I’ve already had my fill of bellowing meatballs after the Cutler extension today.  Antti Raanta is the backup which, I believe, will be the way it remains. He’s had enough starts here to demonstrate that he can play at this level, so I believe it would be more beneficial for him to split duties with Crow rather than going back to Rockford.

The Hawks have their very own Olympic also-ran in Brandon Saad. He can feel somewhat hard-done-by but I can understand taking TJ Oshie in his place, too. He’ll have his time: he could well be the Captain of Team USA in 2018. If he feels like he has anything to prove to David Poile et al, then god help the Isles. Other than that, it’s as-you-were, the only exception being Michael Kostka rotating into the 6th Defensive slot. I actually wish they would give Kostka a run of games and then either shit or get off the pot with this trio of defensemen sharing one place.

Word is that Nabokov gets the start tonight so lighting his slow old ass up might help to cheer up anyone who watched the US go out of the Wolrd Juniors to Russia earllier today.


Puck drops at 6pm