Saturday, April 25, 2009

Okposo and Streit Win World Championship Opening Games

Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit both emerged victorious in their first contests at the 2009 IIHF World Championship in Switzerland.

Earlier today, Team USA defeated Latvia 4-2. Okposo assisted on a Jack Johnson goal at 11:15 of the first period to tie the game 1-1. Johnson would score the eventual game winner unassisted with four and a half minutes to go in the second period.

Drew Stafford (unassisted) and Patrick O'Sullivan (from Ron Hainsey and Dustin Brown) also scored for the U.S. The team finished 0-4 on the power play. Robert Esche made 18 saves for the win.

Okposo took two shots on goal, finished +2, and received 15:53 of ice time.

Going by the game notes, it looks as though Okposo (St. Paul) is playing on an All-Minnesota second line with T.J. Oshie (Warroad) and David Backes (Minneapolis).

Team USA returns to the ice Monday at 10:15 EDT to face Austria.

Yesterday, Streit assisted on a power play goal that accounted for all the scoring as Switzerland held off France 1-0. Martin Gerber recorded the shutout.

Streit's name inexplicably does not appear on the individual stats report page of the game summary, so you can just assume that he took 12 of Switzerland's 42 shots on goal and logged 38:42 of ice time.

The Swiss next face Germany on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comeau Reassigned, Cleared to Play; Worlds News

The Islanders announced this evening that forward Blake Comeau has been reassigned to Bridgeport and the medical staff has cleared him to play. It's a remarkably quick comeback for Comeau, who fractured his wrist only 14 days ago.

The 23-year-old from Saskatchewan will be with the Sound Tigers Wednesday evening when they host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game 4 of their best-of-seven East Division Semi-Final playoff series. The Penguins lead the series two games to one.

According to the Connecticut Post's Mike Fornabaio, Comeau took the full practice today, as did Jeremy Colliton.

Comeau appeared in 53 games for the Islanders this season and registered 25 points on seven goals and 18 assists.

While spending the early part of the season with Bridgeport, Comeau had four goals and 15 assists in 19 games.

Comeau's clearance seems to demonstrate how much more cautious the Islanders are with certain injuries, such as those suffered earlier this season by Frans Nielsen, Radek Martinek, and Sean Bergenheim. Those three players have not been cleared to play in the upcoming IIHF World Championship Switzerland despite finishing out the regular season on active duty with the Islanders.

In Nielsen's case, he admits that any deviation from his rehab routine is detrimental to a full recovery from the leg injuries he suffered as the result of a high and dangerous Mike Mottau hit back in November.

The decisions on Martinek and Bergenheim appear to be simply caution at work. It is sensible for the Islanders to allow the two a longer recovery period before next season. Of course, it's also a shame that all three lose out on the opportunity to represent their countries.

Meanwhile, Comeau may find himself in the thick of an intense playoff season two weeks after fracturing his wrist in the Isles' 9-0 loss to Carolina. With no knowledge of the severity of his injury, or medical knowledge to establish a rate of recovery, you'd have to assume that Comeau suffered only minor damage and there is no added risk of incurring further injury.


Kyle Okposo and Team USA lost to Mark Streit and Switzerland in an exhibition match by the score of 5-2 today in Kloten, Switzerland. The American team actually led 2-0 on a pair of goals by Dustin Brown. Streit started the Swiss barrage of five unanswered goals at 8:25 of the second period. He later added an assist.

Tournament play begins Friday. Team USA opens up on Saturday against Latvia. The two nations are joined by Sweden and Austria in Group C.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Numbers: Okposo Answers the Challenge

Back in February, a blog entry I wrote challenged Kyle Okposo to insert himself back into the Calder Trophy talk after a disappointing first half of the season. The point wasn't that he had a realistic shot at winning the award.

By performing up to a certain level for the remainder of the season, he could establish benchmarks from which to launch the type of career we're all hoping he has. He could also remind the NHL community that he is a player in the class of those who will ultimately compete for the award.

At the time, I wrote the following:

Okposo should set two goals to pursue for the remainder of the season. The first is to maintain the elevated level of play that saw him post six points in a five-game stretch from the end of January to the beginning of February. By becoming a consistent performer, he can establish himself as a go-to guy on a team that sorely needs one.

The second goal is strongly correlated with the first one, but goes a step further. Through his play, Okposo should force people—fans and media—to put him in the mix for the Calder Trophy...

...Okposo has ten goals and nine assists in 39 games played this season. Let's set an ambitious but reasonable bar for the rest of the way. How does 12 goals and 12 assists over the final 30 games sound? That would result in a 43-point season in 69 games. That's a good mark for a 20-year-old to launch a career from if you ask me.
That was on February 10th. Okposo played in 25 of the Islanders' final 29 games after that date. In those 25 games, he tallied 8 goals and 12 assists. The 20 points in his final 25 games enabled Okposo to finish the season with 39 points in 65 games.

Frankly, when I came up with 12-12-24 numbers as a goal, I thought he would have a harder time notching the assists than the goals. Instead, he hit the assist mark right on the nose. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn't missed four of the final six games?

Realistically, Okposo
still would have fallen a little short of the goal mark. And, you know, I don't hear anyone talking about him in the same breath as the anticipated Calder finalists.

But color me impressed anyway. (And, as long as we're talking colors, the Red, White, and Blue were apparently impressed, too.)

Along the way, Okposo put up his second four-game goal scoring streak of the season. He also had an eight-game point scoring streak after putting together two separate five-game streaks earlier in the season.

Okposo finished his season by amassing six goals and ten assists in the final 14 games that he played. I'd love to see what the final totals would have been if not for those missed games and the rust they left for the final two contests.

But you know what I'd like to see more? A full season of Okposo scoring at the rate of .77 points per game that he achieved after Christmas. In fact, since that translates to a 63-point season, I think he can do even better.

He might even be able to do better without the help of John Tavares. But that's one hypothesis I don't think we need to test.


Playing without Okposo tonight, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers rallied from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-4 in OT.

Sean Bentivoglio had the overtime winner and an assist. Jon "Mario" Sim finished the night with two goals and an assist. Peter Mannino scored the victory in net. Ben Walter had two assists, as did Chris Lee. Playing together, Sim and Walter each finished +4.

The Penguins scored on three of their four power play opportunities.

Justin DiBenedetto made his professional hockey debut for the Sound Tigers. He finished -1 with two shots on goal and a roughing minor.

The Sound Tigers now trail the best-of-seven opening round AHL playoff series two games to one. The series continues Wednesday night back in Bridgeport, with games 5 and 6 (if necessary) back in PA.

(This post was originally published at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two-Minute Minors for 4/16/09

  • Lighthouse Hockey has some interesting perspective on Brian Burke's involvement in the upcoming Tavares/Hedman selections.

  • It was nice to see Billy Jaffe get the plum gig of Flyers-Pens on Versus last night. His star has really risen fast.

  • The Islanders' broadcast team was further represented in the postseason by Butch Goring, who got the call to man the studio desk alongside Deb Placey on the MSG Network's local coverage.

  • Congratulations to Kyle Okposo for officially being named to the Team USA roster for the IIHF World Championship in Switzerland. I was also pleased to see that Mark Streit will get the opportunity to represent his country as it hosts the tournament. Now, both of you, stay healthy. The same goes for Sean Bergenheim, if he does take the ice for Finland.

  • Speaking of Okposo, Okposo Net reports that #21 celebrates his 21st birthday today. Word is that he will be wearing #12 for the Sound Tigers this weekend, so, with back to back games Friday and Saturday, maybe he will limit his celebratory shot intake to that number instead of the traditional 21. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if Okposo drinks, shots or otherwise.)

  • And there's been a Joe Sacco sighting! The former Islander will join Scott Gordon as an assistant coach to Ron Wilson for Team USA. It's always interesting to hear about what former players who may have slipped out of your consciousness are up to. According to Greg Logan's post in Newsday, Sacco coaches the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL, which now that I think about it, definitely does ring a bell. Sacco played 98 games for the Isles over two seasons in the late '90s. Looking back at his stats on, I would have pegged him for more than 6 goals and 3 assists in that time. It's funny what memory can do.

    Logan also noted that B.U. sophomore forward Colin Wilson made the U.S. squad, while now former teammate Matt Gilroy did not. I think that's more a reflection of player availability and the respective defense/forward depth charts than a commentary on the potential of Gilroy.

    [NEW]: Nice job by Logan getting an update on Gilroy from his agent. It doesn't sound like either party is in the other's plans.

  • If you are not attending this weekend's AHL playoff games at the Coliseum, Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track will be providing the Islanders' official live blog for Games 1 and 2. The coverage will be linked from the Islanders' team site, where Tom has been writing the official game recaps all season long.

  • Tomorrow, 4/17, New York Islander Fan Central closes its doors for good. I just wanted to take the opportunity to recognize the tireless work that NYIFC has done over the past couple of years. There was no greater source for news articles related to the New York Islanders. The blog will remain available for the next few weeks to allow for coverage of the AHL playoffs and WC through news feeds.

  • Corey Witt has provided notice that Doug Weight will appear on XM's NHL Live today at 12:30 PM.

  • Here's something that caught me by surprise last night: I already miss Islanders hockey. I was thinking ahead to today and all that the day would have in store. When I got to Thursday evening, it suddenly hit me: no Islanders game. It's Thursday night—there's usually a game. There should be a game. As much of a baseball fan as I am, at least there's also still hockey to follow, even if the Islanders are only involved in it at the AHL and international levels. And after only one night, this year's NHL playoffs already have considerable buzz and appeal.

  • Finally, another big thank you to everyone who tuned in for Tuesday night's live blog/chat of Garth Snow's post-lottery press conference. My assumption is that the call was never planned to be that long in the first place, and perhaps the Islanders only reserved 15 minutes on the conference bridge system. When the time was up, the call simply dropped. Press conferences generally do have time limits placed on them by the media relations department—part of their job is to protect the players and coaches. The coach's post-game presser rarely goes beyond five minutes. Anyway, despite the abrupt ending on Tuesday, we still got some decent, if not dramatic, quotes from the general manager. In the end, the short call was fortuitous because I had time to open up the chat to reader comments. You guys did not disappoint! We had some terrific questions and comments, and I was blown away by the level of interest and participation. You all make the community—great job!

(This post was originally published at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Isles Win Lottery; Live Blog: Garth Snow Conference Call 9 PM ET

Coming up at 9:00 PM ET, a live blog of Islanders GM Garth Snow's conference call with the media following tonight's NHL Draft Lottery (Versus, 8:00 PM).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Deep Quotes by Mark Streit and Sean Bergenheim

At some point last season, I stopped recording the post-game locker room interviews on my voice recorder. It was no longer necessary because by the time I got home after a game, video of all of interviews was already posted on Islanders TV.

As you may have noticed, the blanket coverage that used to be provided by ITV has been scaled back. Lately, you usually get Scott Gordon's press conference posted after each game and nothing further. That's the case so far tonight.

If you read Newsday and The New York Post, you will get some of the best quotes from the player post-game scrums in the game recaps by Greg Logan and Dan Martin. But, because the papers have deadlines and limited space, you'll never get the complete take from the night's interview subjects in the absence of the ITV videos. Since I don't have to write a gamer and I don't have a deadline or space restriction, I thought you might enjoy hearing a little more of what the players had to say.

Here, then, are the full quotes from Mark Streit and Sean Bergenheim following tonight's 3-2 loss to the Flyers. Please note that the questions were asked by multiple members of the media and are not presented here verbatim. The questions as stated here do reflect the intent and the spirit with which they were asked. The responses from the players are direct quotes.

Mark Streit

How does today's game compare to recent efforts that resulted in lop-sided losses?

Well, obviously, you can't really compare it. We played way better tonight. Smarter and better effort, obviously. But you know what, at the end of the day it's a loss, too.

What's behind the recent losing after playing well for a long stretch?
Well, it's obviously frustrating. We played some pretty good hockey over a while and then we kind of lost it. I think we're missing consistency in our game and that's a big part in this league. If you want to play well, if you want to make the playoffs, you have to play consistent and we don't do that yet.

Are the recent results attributable to injuries or inexperience?
Obviously it would be nice to play healthy once in a while. It never happened this year. It's been one of those years. It's a very young team. You gotta make the experience and hopefully next year we're going to be better and improve in those certain areas.

How was the team's 5-on-5 play against the Flyers?
We played way better. We made smarter plays, we skated harder, and we kept it really simple. Still, against teams like that you make a couple of small mistakes and they take advantage of that right away. We have to learn and get better at it.

Has it been harder to be as effective against teams that are still playing for something?
I don't think so. Even before that kind of slump we had, we played well and we faced teams that are in the playoff race. The road trip we had in Canada, we played Montreal, we played well. We played in Boston, we played well. We played in Chicago, we played well. We have a young team, lots of injuries—that's just the way it is this year.

Does seeing a team like Philadelphia go from the bottom of the league to the playoffs so quickly give him hope?
Yeah, things can go really fast. I mean, even teams like Washington and Pittsburgh, obviously, Ovechkin and Crosby, Malkin, every year is draft choices. But, still, it can go really fast. You have a good core of young, very talented players and I think they make good experiences this year. You know, they play a lot, they play in key situations, they face good teams, and those experiences are very important for next year. And, you know what? The rest is up to the management. You know, just be here and try to do as good as possible as a player. That's basically what it is.

Does the team need to draft an offensive player or a defensive player?
Well, I think, yeah, we need kind of like a sniper, goal scorer. I think when Ricky's healthy and we have our whole D corps, we have a pretty good defense we can build on and a lot of good talent up front. And, obviously, one or the other guy who can put the puck in the net wouldn't hurt for next year. But, you know what? That's out of my hands and I do as good as possible to be ready for next year, be even better.

Sean Bergenheim

How does he think his line played?
I think our line played well. We should have had at least one, maybe two more goals. It's a little bit frustrating. I think we created chances, but we just didn't bury them. I mean, we got one, but it's a little bit frustrating because we feel we should have scored at least another one.

How did Okposo play in his first game back from 11 days off with an injury?
Great. He's such a good player you don't really notice it that much. I don't know how he felt. He said he felt really good. When I came back I noticed it a little bit in the conditioning, but I think Kyle skated well. I personally didn't notice anything. He played his game, which is always really good.

Does he himself feel close to 100% physically after a few games back?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the first, the Carolina game, the conditioning wasn't really at the game level, but these last two games have felt really good. Obviously, you want wins so you kind of feel a little bit down but the body feels good.

Have injuries caught up to the team and affected the last stretch, in which they've lost 9 of 11 after playing .500?
Yeah, I would say so. At some point, it's going to show. A game like today, also I think the Pittsburgh game, we played pretty well. Then they get a few goals and we really can't keep up after that. There's a lot of good stuff in our game, but we're a little bit off so we that don't get those wins. I would say that injuries are maybe catching up a little.

Which player should the team choose if they get the No. 1 draft pick?
I know there's talk about these two players, Tavares and Hedman. It's something that we can't control. I think both of those players would bring a lot to this team. Even if Hedman is a defensman, he's going to bring a lot offensively, too. That's why we have good scouts, and a good GM, and they're going to make the decision. So, it's not up to the players.

Has he seen Hedman?
Yeah, I've seen him. I think both players are impressively good, so we're going to see what comes out of the draft there for us.

Has he seen more of Hedman than Tavares? Has he played against Hedman?
I think I have. I can't remember—I'm sure I have because I played that one year in Sweden. I can't remember. But I've seen him on TV. I've probably seen him more than Tavares. Yeah, I would say so (Hedman has a lot of offensive skill). He's a pretty good all-around defenseman. You don't see those come that often.

Is the team headed in the right direction?
Absolutely. I think the coach had a pretty good quote there in one newspaper. He said that the first half of the season felt like three years and the last half was like a month and a half. That tells you something. I think a lot of the players, I know I feel the same way too, when things are fun, when things are going well and in the right direction, time goes by a little bit faster too. I think we're all positive and there's a good atmosphere here. We've got a few missing pieces to this team and then we're going to be...personally, I think there's a bright future here and I think everybody here thinks the same way.

(This post was originally published at

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gilroy Wins Hobey Baker Award

Long Island's own Matt Gilroy, senior defenseman for Boston University, has just been announced as the winner of the 2009 Hobey Baker Award. The Hobey Baker is awarded annually to the top player in men's collegiate hockey.

Gilroy is only the fifth defenseman to win the presitigious award. Tomorrow night, he and his BU teammates, including Islanders draft pick Corey Trivino, face Miami (Ohio) for the NCAA Men's Hockey Championship. Following that game, Gilroy will be an undrafted free agent, likely fielding offers from over a dozen NHL teams.


Earlier post reprinted from

Have the Isles Finally Reached the Breaking Point?

How long can a team in 30th place keep itself from looking like a 30th-place team?

What's the breaking point for a team that was undermanned from the start, then was further compromised by an unprecedented string of short-term and long-term injuries, and still managed to be competitive nearly every night?

Right now, it seems it's about 78 games.

In the last two games, the Islanders have turned in their spoiler card for an S.O.S. alert. They have quickly transformed from a tough out into a flotilla with no float (or too much float?). The performances against Carolina and Pittsburgh, 9-0 and 6-1 losses, have left even the best of us mixing our metaphors.

This has been a season of challenges for Scott Gordon. First he had to convince his veteran players to conform to a style that may never have seen, let alone played. Then he had to be a coach enough to tinker with his strategy when it wasn't working.

Gordon had to carry on without his No. 1 goaltender and his best faceoff man. He faced long stretches without Frans Nielsen, Trent Hunter, Doug Weight, Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, and Freddy Meyer, and shorter ones without Kyle Okposo, Radek Martinek, Mark Streit, Sean Bergenheim, and others.

He dealt with players who were not thrilled to be here and the vacancies created when those players were dealt.

Gordon has one more challenge to face before this season ends: rally the troops one more time and give the fans an exciting final weekend of hockey.

One can imagine how easy it might be for the players to lose focus at this point. The end of the tunnel is right there in front of them. I think they are mostly confident that they can improve next year, but you can't start doing that without a definitive break. They can't improve this year. That makes it easy for the games this week to feel more like exercises—exercises that they have not performed well so far.

Despite the record, I would have anticipated some excitement in the building this weekend as the Islanders hosted their final two opponents of the season. However, assuming Okposo remains sidelined, and counting the injury to Blake Comeau, there is simply less to be excited for now. The depth chart has been flattened too far.

The Islanders are in a position now where they can show up but simply not have enough to bring with them. The offenses that could have walked all over them at times this season, but met resistence instead, are now finding the going much easier. And the return fire is muted.

Yet, a little buzz remains in the air. For a fan, every gamenight is a big night. The sense, for the fans, if not the players, is that Sunday is not a dead end. There's another huge game Tuesday night, and building some positive momentum toward the Draft Lottery would be the ideal way to end the season.

It will be very difficult to compete against Philadelphia and Boston with the current roster. Even if the opponents rest some of their big guns, there will still be significant disparities in talent and experience. But if the weight of the season hasn't finally broken the Islanders, wouldn't it be great to close it out with a couple of wins? And no conflicted feelings!

It would be unfortunate if this season, which was built for struggling but offered real hope, ended with a big whimper.

The players talk repeatedly about how all that matters to them now and always is winning. Hopefully they have enough left in the tank and on the bench to improve on the recent 2-7-1 stretch. Then they can say, "Look what we can still do. Look how far we've come."

And we can say, "Yeah, that was fun, and look what we're adding to the mix Tuesday night."

Happy holidays to those of you who are observing now and in the coming days.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Dish on Bailey's Dishing

Every time I see Josh Bailey display his natural offensive abilities while scoring a goal, I'm encouraged that he will reach his full potential as an offensive threat in the NHL. His power play goal in the third period of last night's win over the Lightning is certainly a prime example of the full stable of talents that Bailey can bring to the Islanders' offense.

On the goal, which you can watch above, Bailey used speed, instincts, and hands to get behind the Lightning penalty kill, receive a fine pass from Blake Comeau, and beat Mike McKenna from in close.

It is this type of effort that makes me hope that Bailey is not too pre-programmed to always think pass first.

Sure, playmaker is the role he has grown up with and it is the role he is expected to fill for the Islanders. But we have seen convincing glimpses of what Bailey can do with the puck on his own stick.

So does Bailey have to be aware of his mindset on the ice so that he doesn't always defer to his playmaking abilities when a goalscoring opportunity arises? Here's what he told me:

"I'm always going to think that I'm more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. Since I was little I've always been like that, so I always think pass before I shoot. I'm just trying to open my eyes a little more, to shoot a little more. It'll open passes up when I do that. I think that's something I've been working on this year."

At this stage of his career, I'm glad that he's conscious of defaulting to a single role when he's capable of developing into so much more. That is to say (and forgive the ridiculously lofty comparisons), I hope he's thinking more Bryan Trottier or Steve Yzerman than Adam Oates.

Of course, if he achieves even two-thirds of any of their career point totals, he'll have had a fantastic career. But you get the point. Bailey is too young to settle for being a 15-20 goal guy when the sky is still the limit.

By the way, I'm fairly convinced that by this time next season no one will be wondering if Bailey would have been better served by playing an extra year in juniors in 2008-09. He is well positioned for an Okposo-like progression.

In other news, Yann Danis doesn't know what the coaching staff has in store for him and Joey MacDonald for the final week of the season, nor does he think knowing necessarily helps him.

"I don't know if they have planned it out or not. They haven't told us, so I don't know. You just have to stay ready, no matter what happens."

Danis also told reporters that he hates losing and hates not playing at his best. He said it was huge for him to have the opportunity to bounce back and get in a rhythm again. Danis seems to have just the right balance of fire and cool these days.

Finally, I have been referring to Joel Rechlicz as "Wrecker" for some time now. I now have unmitigated reason to believe that the proper nickname is "Recker." So from here on, we drop the W.

(This article was originally published at

Saturday, April 4, 2009

All Five Callups Will Play Tonight

Press release from the Islanders regarding tonight's lineup:



Fraser, Fritz, Iggulden, Joensuu and Rechlicz will play tonight

Uniondale, NY, April 4, 2009 – The New York Islanders have recalled forwards Mitch Fritz, Mike Iggulden, Jesse Joensuu and Joel Rechlicz and defenseman Jamie Fraser from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis. All five will be in the Islanders’ lineup tonight when they take the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Fraser will make his NHL debut, marking the 12th Islander to appear in his first career game this season. The 23-year-old Sarnia native has played in 63 games with Bridgeport this season, recording seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points and 28 penalty minutes. He also ranks fourth on the team with a +12 plus/minus rating. Fraser was signed by the Islanders as an undrafted free agent on December 30, 2006.


Live blog of tonight's Lightning-Isles game is here.