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Game Preview: Islanders @ Canadiens

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Even though Islanders management has talked in detail about the depth of goaltending within their system, they never expected they’d start a fifth goaltender this season or need to sign a sixth netminder to a two-way contract.

“I don’t know why this is happening, but it’s happened,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “Other guys are getting more opportunities to play more minutes and other guys are getting to play the game they love to play at a high level. All we want to do is keep preparing these guys to play and hopefully we can continue to play well.”

Capuano couldn’t have said it better. Despite the season-long run of bad luck and injuries, the team has never once hung their heads and given up.

“We have good kids,” Capuano said. “They’re high character guys. They’re playing the game they love and they care for one another.”

Capuano added, “We will stick together as a team, as a coaching staff and we will move forward.”

Mikko Koskinen #1 of the New York Islanders makes a save against Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 8, 2011 at Nassau Colsium in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Lou Capozzola/Getty Images)
Even through all the adversity, that’s exactly what this team has showed. They’re a young team that has persevered through more hard times than most and the have heart that allows them to continue to stick together, fighting for every opportunity to win.

“We want to win as many games as possible,” PA Parenteau said. “We want to keep doing the good things and we want to improve on the things we’re not doing well… As a group, we want to finish strong and finish with good chemistry. I think it’s important for next year, but also this year as well. We want to win as many games as we can.”
The team’s rankings are not where the organization has hoped, but the Islanders have given a number of players their first opportunity to play in the National Hockey League this season and the most recent opportunity lies with Mikko Koskinen.

“With the guys that we have now, this is a chance for them to show what they can do and we’re 100 percent in front of them,” Parenteau said. “I think we have to work hard and make sure we have to block more shots because they don’t have a lot of experience (at the NHL level), but as far as I’m concerned, they’re pretty skilled goalies.”

Parenteau continued, “Mikko (Koskinen) is part of the future here. He’s a big guy. He’s a young guy and he has a lot of things to work on, but this is going to be a great experience for him.”

The 22-year-old was supposed to be Tuesday night’s backup goaltender, but with Poulin’s injury suffered just minutes before the opening faceoff, everything changed in a matter of seconds and Koskinen didn’t have time to think about the milestone he was about to reach.

“I didn’t have time to be nervous,” Koskinen said. “It was a pretty weird feeling.”

He’ll have much more time to prepare for his second NHL start. After a solid practice with the team, Koskinen is expected to make that leap when the Islanders take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Even now that Koskinen knows he’ll be taking the bulk of the workload, he said he’s not going to change the way he plays.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Koskinen said. “You have to every day, be your best out there, but I just need to have fun and enjoy my time here. It’s really fun.”

But after talking to his teammates, they said their performance was a major factor in the loss on Tuesday night. They are hoping to put a better product on the ice when they face the Canadiens, which will give the team a better opportunity to help Koskinen earn his first NHL win.

“We wanted to help ease (Koskinen) into it and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” John Tavares said about Tuesday’s matchup. “That was a pretty unique situation (with Poulin getting injured), but I think we have confidence in all of (our goaltenders). They all have a lot of potential.”

PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders passes during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators at Nassau Coliseum on February 5, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
There are many things the Isles said they’d like to improve upon before Thursday night.

“It was real sloppy,” Tavares said of Tuesday night’s game. “I think both teams were sloppy, but we have to worry about ourselves. Our turnovers, our puck management wasn’t very good. We didn’t play like a team game yesterday for much of the game and we need to have a better start. We weren’t very good in the faceoff circle, so that has to improve. We’re going to need that in a tough place to play on the road.”

Even if the Islanders had a veteran in between the pipes, the matchup would still be difficult. The Canadiens rank sixth overall in the Eastern Conference and the atmosphere inside the Bell Centre adds another deafening dimension for the visiting team to overcome.

“It’s one of the most fun places to play, but it’s also the toughest place to play,” Parenteau, a Quebec native, said about playing in the Bell Centre. “It’s a big crowd. They’re a good team. They skate pretty well. But I have a lot of family and a lot of friends there, so it’s something special to play there. Last time I was there, I didn’t have a very good game, but now things have been a little different for me. I’m planning on having a good game.”

Parenteau said he hasn’t been producing as much as he’d like, but he’s hoping his line with Tavares and Matt Moulson will be able to light the lamp in front of his family and friends.

“We’re playing well, but we’re missing a lot of chances too,” Parenteau said. “The last six or seven games, we haven’t been producing at the pace that we were producing before, but we’re not playing bad. We’re still making plays. We’ve just been a little unlucky. We have to keep doing more of the same and I think things are going to happen for us.”

If the Islanders top offensive line can create some points, the Islanders will have a better chance to win. Regardless, much of this season has been about overcoming adversity and building a strong bond for the future.

Notes: Islanders call-up goaltender Joel Martin will be the backup in Thursday night’s game. Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin dislocated his left knee cap during pregame warmups on Tuesday night (Transactions). The injury will require surgery and keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season. Forward Jeremy Colliton sustained a rib injury during the game and he’ll be sidelined for the next two weeks.
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