BALANCED ATTACK, DiPi LEADING THE WAY
By Jason Lockhart
It's hard to call any line on the Islanders the "first" line or the "fourth" line. On any given night -- especially during this recent stretch where the Islanders have earned points in 11 of 12 games -- any of the lines could come up with a big goal or break the game wide open.
Last night against Boston, it was the Jason Blake-Randy Robitaille-Chris Simon line that solidified the victory when Robitaille gave the Islanders not one, but two insurance goals. But before that, Jeff Tambellini, playing alongside Viktor Kozlov and Miroslav Satan opened the scoring and Mike Sillinger, flanked by Andy Hilbert and Trent Hunter scored the game-winner.
You don't have to look much further to find when the line of Arron Asham, Frans Nielsen and Richard Park contributed to a big win. In just his ninth NHL game, Nielsen converted on his first attempt in an NHL shootout, helping lead the Islanders to a 3-2 win over Toronto on Tuesday.
"It's something we preached from day one," said Park. "We didn't want to be a one or two-line hockey team. We want to use all four lines."
Even on nights when Ted Nolan gives players limited ice time during regulation, he continues to show faith in them during key times in the game. A prime example is when Nielsen, who was the only skater on the Islanders to play less than ten minutes on Tuesday, was given the opportunity to go first in the shootout. He did not disappoint.
"Teddy has believed in all of us and our abilities," said Park. "It has worked out for us."
While the Islanders are showing a balanced attack up front, Rick DiPietro has been carrying the load in goal, having played in all but one of the last 12 games.
During that stretch, DiPietro has put up impressive numbers, compiling a 2.33 goals against average while stopping 93% of the shots. DiPietro's string of excellent goaltending has allowed him to climb into the NHL's top ten in save percentage (.918). He is also tied for fourth in shutouts with five.
"Ricky's goaltending has been sensational for a long time," said Nolan. "It's almost something you take for granted, but we don't. We really appreciate what Ricky's been doing. He's been maturing and getting better on a daily basis."
PRACTICE NOTES: Dman Bruno Gervais is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury. If he cannot play on Saturday against the Devils, the Islanders will call up a defenseman from Bridgeport...
A reminder to all college students: the NYI Havoc Zone is not available for Saturday's Islanders-Devils game at the Coliseum. Due to a strong advance sale for many games the rest of the season, Havoc Zone seats will only be available for a select few games the rest of the season. Check newyorkislanders.com for details in the next few days...
Asked about the perception that Islanders-Devils games have become about the respectful battle between him and the legendary Martin Brodeur, DiPietro said, "I don't agree. It's always a challenge going up against a great goalie like Brodeur, but this game is the New York Islanders against the New Jersey Devils. And the team that plays the best as a team will win."
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