If you see a bunch of overly tanned players on the ice tomorrow, do not adjust the tint on your television sets. The two-week Olympic break is over, the beaches are closed to players and it’s time to cram a quarter of the NHL schedule into a month and a half. Welcome back.
Unfortunately for Blackhawks who enjoyed a wonderful vacation, the scenery goes from dynamic to dog shit tonight as the ‘Hawks are forced to skate in the toilet bowl of sports arenas, the Nassau Coliseum. Despite the fact the Islanders have played parallel to the look of their stadium, they’re only six points out of a playoff spot in the horrific Eastern Conference.
Antti Niemi will be in goal for the ‘Hawks — much to the delight of the meatballs — while Kyle Okposo (40 points) and Matt Moulson (36) attempt to get a couple through.
The Islanders savior and No. 1 overall pick John Tavares is having a decent rookie season with 34 points (17G, 17A), but his minus-18 +/- rating is one of six Islanders players with a minus-12 or worse, which includes Brad Park’s gawdawful minus-20.
Defenseman Mark Streit is one of the few bright spots for this franchise just waiting to be moved or contracted. He’s scored 31 points and leads the Isles in ice time at over 25 minutes per game. If this were a video game and you could turn the fatigue off, the Isles would have Streit on the ice for every minute.
Everyone will be wondering if the six Blackhawks Olympians and four who played all the way through to Sunday will be worn out tonight. The obvious goal for Q-Stache is to hope the ‘Hawks can get up early and rest his stars and skip some shifts so the rested guys can finish out a victory. Either way, I don’t see Q extending the play of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa or Tomas Kopecky. Keith most likely will not play his usual 26 minutes, and I see Brian Campbell taking on a few extra minutes of ice time tonight.
With Rick DiPietro out (I know, shocking), Dwayne Roloson should be in net for the Isles opposing Niemi. Puckdrop is an early 6 p.m. CT start. I admittedly will not be able to see much of this game as I’ll be attending the English Beat and Fishbone show at House of Blues with my PBR-drinking father. Nothing like some ska and reggae on a Tuesday night.