|Eighty-one games have been played this season by both the Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders - two clubs who will conclude disappointing 2011-12 campaigns tonight at Nationwide Arena. Though it’s been a trying season on both ends, for the Blue Jackets, the end of the year has brought strong play from a depleted lineup that’s rallied around playing the “spoiler” role. Since the NHL trading deadline, the Blue Jackets have faced playoff-driving teams like Colorado, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Florida, St. Louis, Detroit and others, and seen three-and-four game winning streaks in that span. |
Tonight, they will be looking to cap off the season with a win against an up-and-coming Islanders team that can’t seem to catch a break with injuries to its goaltenders. Rick DiPietro, drafted first overall several years ago to be the club’s No. 1 goalie (then signed to a record 15-year deal), has missed the entire season and veteran Evgeni Nabokov has carried the mail between pipes. Nabokov recently signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the Islanders and is expected to enter 2012-13 as their starting netminder.
Up front, head coach Jack Capuano certainly has a full chest of toys to utilize. The Islanders boast some of the brightest young forwards in the game, including John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, and Nino Niederriter. They have shown the ability to find the back of the net, but after a breakout season a year ago, Grabner has regressed in his second year on Long Island after signing a five-year contract extension.
The future is equally as bright for the Islanders on defense, with veteran puck-mover Mark Streit serving as team captain and logging a boatload of minutes on the back end. Andrew MacDonald, a young, cerebral two-way defender who can play a shutdown role and contribute offensively, has solidified his spot on the blue line alongside Travis Hamonic, Mark Eaton, and others.
| || || |
|Nash (29) ||Moulson (36) |
|Prospal (37) ||Tavares (50) |
|Nash (58) ||Tavares (81) |
|Dorsett (223) ||Martin (111) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Hamonic (+6) |
|Mason (15-26-3) |
|Nabakov (19-18-3) |
|York (2.30) ||Nabakov (2.55) |
|York (.920) ||Nabakov (.914) || |
|• RW Derek Dorsett has goals in two of the last five games and points in three of the last five after scoring his 12th of the season Mar. 31 at St. Louis. The goals come after he was held goalless the previous 16 games. His 12 goals are a career high and eight better than his previous best of four (set three times previously). |
• The Blue Jackets are averaging 14,585 fans (583,419 total) per game in 40 home games at Nationwide Arena (capacity –18,144) this season. In 449 home games since joining the NHL in 2000, the Blue Jackets have averaged 16,184 fans per game (7,266,798 total), which is 89.0 percent of capacity at Nationwide Arena. There have been 145 sellouts.
• Tonight’s game marks the lone meeting this season between the Blue Jackets and Islanders. Columbus is 8-1-4 all-time against the Islanders, including a 5-0-2 mark at Nationwide Arena.