SOPE DISH: Countdown to the Season Openers
Saturday, October 8, noon
THIS ONE'S FOR YOU
Even the fog on the Coliseum rink during our morning skate at 10:00 am couldn't dampen our enthusiasm for tonight's home opener. I've never seen fog like that. I guess the muggy weather took its toll. From what I understand, everything will be fine tonight.
Although the skate wasn't a full one because of the lack of much visibility, it won't affect our game tonight. We're ready. We've had two days of practices since the opener in Buffalo. The Hurricanes were also at the rink this morning, despite playing last night at home against Pittsburgh. That was some win for them, getting it in a shootout against Mario and Sidney Crosby. I'm sure they'll be flying tonight.
So will we. We had two full days to address any issues from the loss on Wednesday. We went over our systems, what we want to do with the puck, the power play, the PK. There was also plenty of time for talk, nothing formal in the way of a full team meeting. Just a lot of discussion amongst the guys about being there for each other, playing 60 minutes, everything.
We came in today to see that our dressing room overnight was been turned into a beautiful shrine to the tradition of the Islanders. When you first walk in our room, on the right is a trophy case with four Stanley Cups and some of the trophies won by legends like Potvin, Trottier and Bossy. There are large pictures all over the walls of players past and present, from a nice portrait of Yash, Parry and Luk to images of guys like Butch Goring with the Stanley Cup. Above our locker stalls is a history of the Islanders, with pictures and news clippings starting with the team's first win in 1972. It looks amazing.
I've been told by the guys about how loud Islanders fans can be. This is a great old barn with fans who know their hockey. It's been a long time for our fans, and it's been a long time for us. We can't wait to hear you loud and clear. See you tonight.
Thursday, October 6, 3:45 pm
NOT THE WAY TO START
I was too angry last night to even speak, so I figured I would wait until after practice today to write about last night.
You never want to start with a game like that. There was no consolation in getting two assists. No consolation that a lot of people told me it was a tremendously exciting game. I'm happy for the sport and the fans and all of us that we're back at it and some of the games were barn-burners, but that loss was unacceptable.
We didn't play the way we wanted to play. We had good moments in spurts, but did not play our best for 60 minutes. It definitely was not a motivation issue. Everybody was psyched to play our first game. We just didn't execute, and we made crucial mistakes that cost us.
As everyone knows, special teams are going to be everything this season. Their power play stepped up last night, ours didn't. At today's practice, we took the first step in making the necessary adjustments.
We have many excellent leaders on our team, not just the guys wearing the C and the As. It's up to all of us to speak up, say what has to be said. I'm confident in the people on this team that we'll do what needs to be done and be ready for the home opener on Saturday.
Wednesday, October 5, 12:30 pm
THE MORNING SKATE
The day has arrived. We just got off the ice at the Sabres' rink for the morning skate. There is a lot of excitement in the air. As you would expect, everyone wants to talk to Miro and Z. They are handling it like pros. Although there hasn't been a lot of talk in the room about how badly I'm sure they would like to win tonight, the guys know the game means a lot to them. That's only natural.
Last night I basically kept to my usual road game routine. I unwinded when I got back to the hotel, then grabbed a good meal with the guys. Today's skate had the kind of quick tempo you would expect from a morning skate on Opening Night.
Don't have much to add until after the game, so here are three of my favorite comedies:
1. Best in Show
2. Wedding Crashers
3. Old School
Enjoy the game tonight.
Tuesday, October 4, 4:00 pm
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Our flight leaves Farmingdale in 30 minutes for the journey to Buffalo. I think I speak for every guy when I say there's a lot of excitement. It's more than me playing my first regular season game as an Islander. It's the first game for so many guys -- vets and rookies. And even for the longtime Islanders like Yash and Parry, I know they can't wait. Remember -- it's the first game back in the NHL in well over a year for all of us.
Our travel schedule is definitely easier than what we had with the Canucks. I know my wife and three children love it, knowing I'll be around more during the season. With the Islanders, we have easy rides to 12 games with the Rangers, Devils and Flyers, and we have short flights to places like Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa. With the new schedule, at least this year, we don't travel any further than Chicago and Minnesota. It's a lot easier on the body, I can tell you that.
I have to tell you that last night's Season Kickoff Party was one of the classiest I have ever been to. My family and I had a great time and it was nice to meet Charles and his family and all of the staff people and their families. There was an excellent dinner and lots of stuff for the kids -- gifts and even a magic show. The staff put together a welcome video for the new players and staff, with our radio guy John Wiedeman narrating a brief history of the Islanders. From seeing the clips of the first Cup and the first game back after 9/11, it gave us an idea of what the Islanders mean to Long Island. I hope we do you proud.
I'll do my best to post something after tomorrow's morning skate and after the game.
Monday, October 3, 3:25 pm
BACK WITH 'Z'
It looks like I'm back with Alexei Zhitnik. We were put together at the beginning of camp, but then the coaches gave us looks with different guys. I like playing with Z. There's nothing not to like.
I've been fortunate so far during my playing days in the NHL. In Vancouver I played for three years with Mattias Ohlund. We really gelled, talked all the time, became friends off the ice, too. It's important to have chemistry with your D partner. With the Canucks I also played with Ed Jovanovski and Jyrrki Lumme, two other real good players and people. I'm excited about having the same kind of partnership with Z.
I thought we had an excellent practice today. It was the last full practice in preparation for the season opener Wednesday in Buffalo. Usuallly, the practice the day before the game is shorter and more about systems. To save our legs for the game, it's usually an uptempo practice but you don't get bag-skated. Today we were out there for a while, working on everything. Before we hit the ice, the coaches showed us tape of things we did well (and not so well) during the exhibition games.
Tonight's our Season Kickoff party with the team and staff. My family and I are looking forward to meeting everyone. I'll leave you with three musical performers I listen to a lot. As you can see, I like all kinds.
2. Tragically Hip
Saturday, October 1, 8:40 pm
SUNDAY IS FOR THE SEASON TICKETHOLDERS
Can't lie to you about today. It was a very quiet and relaxing day. It was our first complete day off since training camp started. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not complaining. It's just that we were away for a week and then had a bunch of games and important practices. Today was a day for just hanging with my wife and our three children.
Tomorrow is for our season ticketholders. Our practice at the Coliseum on Sunday morning is open just for them. From what I hear, Mike Milbury will answer any questions the fans have for him (make sure you tell him what a great move he made getting me!). I think it's great that Mike is so accessible to the fans for things like that. That's not always the case with GMs and coaches in sports. They also mentioned that Steve Stirling will have a wireless microphone on him during practice so fans can hear what he is saying during practice. Players will also be interviewed during breaks in practice and I hear there will be some free food, a raffle for some great stuff, a silent auction for charity and maybe a surprise or two.
Sometimes open practices for fans are lighter than your typical practice, but that's not going to be the case on Sunday. With the off day today, tomorrow is an important practice day as we prepare for the start of the season. After Sunday, we're at Islanders Iceworks on Monday and Tuesday, and then we charter to Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon. I'm sure Steve and the staff have a full practice prepared for tomorrow. To our season ticketholders, I really hope you can make it. It's a chance for us to thank you for being there all year. It sounds like it's going to be an exciting morning, and you'll be home in time for the NFL and whatever else you have planned tomorrow. Enjoy.
Friday, Sept. 30, 4:00 pm
Getting Ready for Buffalo and Carolina
Luk had his blog from Yarmouth, so I figured I'd contribute and give the fans a player's perspective as we head into our season opener in Buffalo and home opener next Saturday against Carolina. I'll do my best to be interesting and entertaining, although I can't make any promises. I'm a hockey player, not an author.
After getting back from Yarmouth, we had seven games in nine days, so today's practice at Islanders Iceworks was all about systems. The fans watching probably thought we didn't get much of a workout, and I guess they would be right. Today's practice was like watching an NFL team go through their paces before a big game without drilling each other. We have a lot of work to do. Today was a perfect day to go over things. The players were able to ask a lot of questions and get things down. The coaches did a great job of communicating what they expect from us.
I would say we were OK in the pre-season. I know we can play better. I guess the key thing is that we made it through the exhibition schedule without anyone suffering any major injuries. That's the last thing you want. Good to hear that Ash will be back skating tomorrow. He adds a lot to our lineup.
Today I was paired with Chris Campoli, like I was most of last night. I guess whoever does the blog has to play with Campoli. Not such a bad thing. Camps is a good player, only going to get better. Who knows who I'll be with in Buffalo? Keeps things interesting.
One thing I know for sure is that it's awesome what they did with our room at Islanders Iceworks. I guess I'm lucky because I just joined the Islanders. Now that Charles owns the facility, he's made it first-class for the players. The area around with the rink, with all the gigantic pictures of the Islanders legends and some of the current stars like Yash and Blakie, looks real good. Fans should check it out. The dressing room looks fantastic. Players lounge is real nice...we even have bubble hockey. There's a little area with two computers and wireless, so none of the guys have excuses now for not doing blogs.
Tomorrow will most likely be a quiet day with the family, but I'll send something tomorrow night. Take care. Get ready for next Saturday. We need you.