THE CAPTAIN IS BACK
The Islanders' lineup will receive another boost when captain Alexei Yashin returns to the lineup to face the Rangers on Thursday evening at the Nassau veterans Memorial Coliseum. After acquiring Marc-Andre Bergeron, Richard Zednik and Ryan Smyth before the trade deadline, Ted Nolan adds one more piece to his offensive arsenal.
"Yash looks good, a little trimmer, lighter and quicker than before," said Nolan. "A player of his caliber will get back in the swing of things pretty quickly. Can't think of a better game than Islanders-Rangers to throw him back in."
Now that Yashin is back, the big question is where Nolan will put him. Nolan was reluctant to put him on the top line because he didn't want to break up the chemistry of Jason Blake, Ryan Smyth and Randy Robitaille. Nolan did indicate, however, that Yashin may be on a line with Miroslav Satan.
Nolan doesn't want to rush Yashin into playing a lot of minutes in his first game back, so look for the captain to play approximately 15 on Thursday.
BRINGING THE INTENSITY
Everyone in the Islanders' locker room agreed that the Islanders didn't bring their best against the Rangers on Monday, but they're putting that behind them and looking ahead to Thursday's rematch. With the Rangers only five points behind the Islanders, these games have serious playoff implications.
"We need high energy right now and some passion," said Nolan. "We were a little off our game on Tuesday. You have to give the Rangers credit: they came at us pretty good, but that was two days ago. We'll be ready for whatever they have for us. Guys were a little feisty on the ice today and should be charged for tomorrow."
A difference for Thursday will be the home-ice advantage. The players and coaches know the benefits of playing at home, especially in a packed house.
"You can never underestimate the home crowd," said Nolan. "I've seen how loud this building can be. Hopefully, it can be as loud as possible, because we definitely need that. It really helps get the team going."
RICK'S SHOW-STOPPING PERFORMANCE
Days later, there was still talk about Rick DiPietro's star performance on Monday, when he set a team record by stopping 56 shots in the Islanders' 2-1 shootout loss. Ted Nolan added one more quote to the mix.
"Not only did Ricky look like a superstar, he acted like a superstar," said Nolan. "He was very composed, determined and focused. I don't think I've seen any goaltending performance much better than that. He was definitely in the zone."
THE PP MOVING ON UP
After seven games with Bergeron in the lineup, the Islanders have gone 8-for-24 (33%) on the power play and improved from 15.4% to 17% for the season in that span. Bergeron has contributed a goal and three assists while on the man advantage. In Monday's game against the Rangers, the lone Islanders tally was a power play goal by Jason Blake with Bergeron earning one of the assists.
"When you make additions to the power play like Bergeron and Smitty it makes it more dangerous," said Blake. "Bergeron has a great shot and Smitty is one of the best at standing in front of the net. Forwards are worried about defending against Bergeron's shot and the defense is pre-occupied with Ryan in front of the net. It makes more room for the rest of us."
Tickets still remain at the Coliseum box office and through TicketMaster for Thursday's Islanders-Rangers showdown at the Coliseum...
Miroslav Satan sat out today's practice with what Ted Nolan termed "bumps and bruises," but Satan declared that he will play tomorrow night...
Thursday's Islanders version of the game broadcast with Howie, Billy and Deb has been moved to FSN 2...
The Islanders will take their annual team photo before practice at the Coliseum on Friday.