NYI-NYR NOTEBOOK: Moulson and Boyle, C.S.I. NJ, PB on XM, Clarkson a "Dog"? Game notes, Score-O

Brian Boyle always knew his minor league teammate Matt Moulson would get his moment in the NHL and make the most of it. While a member of the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, Boyle could see in Moulson what everyone sees now: the golden hands, the ability to read a play and get in scoring position, the work ethic. If it wasn’t going to work out for Moulson with the parent Los Angeles Kings, it would sooner or later.

“Sometimes it’s just not meant to be in one place, but a player fits in better somewhere else,” Boyle told Point Blank during a recent post-game conversation in the New York Rangers’ locker room at Madison Square Garden. “It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. You just move on and take advantage of the next opportunity. If you’re asking me if I’m surprised that Matty’s a 30-goal scorer in the NHL today, my answer is not one bit. No one who played in Manchester with him is.”

This is the uncertainty of pro hockey. The Los Angeles Kings moved forward without the pair of prospects and could still be a contender in a year or two. Yet here are two castoffs, Moulson and Boyle, flourishing in New York and combining for 50 goals. Moulson is one goal away from his second consecutive season of at least 30 goals and has formed a dynamic pairing with John Tavares. The 6-foot-7 Boyle, who scored 30 goals in his first pro season in Manchester, was projected as a fourth-line center – if he made it to the NHL. Boyle has scored 20 goals this season for the Rangers and is part of a tandem with Brandon Prust that has effectively checked many of the league’s top scorers.

Boyle was acquired by the Rangers from Los Angeles for a third round draft pick in late June of 2009. A few weeks later, the Islanders signed Moulson, cut loose by the Kings, to a one-year, two-way deal. A favorite of coach John Tortorella, Boyle should do well for himself this summer as a restricted free agent. Moulson stayed right where he got his break, signing a lucrative, three-year contract extension with the Islanders in January.

“You can’t help but be happy for the guy,” said Boyle, whose Rangers host Moulson and the Islanders in an important rivalry clash on Tuesday at the Garden. “Matt’s a good person. He has worked for everything he’s got and never gave up. He’s on one of our rivals now, but it doesn’t affect the respect I have for him.”

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C.S.I. New Jersey: The NHL has confirmed to Point Blank that hockey operations officials have conducted an inquiry into the officiating of Saturday’s game in New Jersey. Do not expect much to come out of it. Referee Stephane Auger could be called to the principal’s office for conduct unbecoming a referee. Jack Capuano could be fined. But concrete evidence appears to be lacking, plus the league is hosting General Managers meetings for three days in Florida.

Devils Dogging Coach = Big Whoop: Thirty years ago, the dynastic Islanders reveled in Duane “Dog” Sutter’s repeated taunting of Capitals coach Bryan Murray. If it’s true David Clarkson and the Devils took verbal shots at Jack Capuano, the best way for the Islanders to exact revenge would have been to put more than 15 shots on net over three periods and overtime. The Islanders also face Clarkson again in New Jersey on March 30. Don’t pout to a newspaper. Win the game, hit the man. That’s how Dog and the Islanders gained respect.

Two Chances to Spoil: For all of their victories since the All-Star break, the Islanders have not had many opportunities to embrace the role of spoiler. They took the Devils past 60 minutes in two recent games, but New Jersey took a complete four points. The Maple Leafs earned five of six points over three games on Feb. 8, Feb. 22 and March 8. Minnesota was clearly hurt by being dominated at the Coliseum last week, but the Wild is no rival. (Or whatever the heck the proper grammar should be for that one). Otherwise, the Islanders have not been in position often to hurt a club’s playoff chances.

This week they can spoil the playoff hopes of the Rangers and Hurricanes, and possibly get into the race by the end of the weekend. The Islanders have played well for a while now, but need to finish strong.

Islanders-Rangers Notes: (courtesy of Rangers PR)

All-Time: Rangers are 111-97-19-5 overall – 64-37-11-4 at home, 47-60-8-1 on the road. (Of course, with overtime and shootout, those numbers are different from the Islanders’ side).

2010-11: Tonight is the fifth of six meetings this season, and the third and final at Madison Square Garden. NYR leads 3-1-0 thus far, including a 2-0-0 mark at home following a 7-2 win at MSG on Dec. 27.

Last Season: The Rangers were 3-2-1 overall and 1-1-1 at home. The Rangers’ power play converted at a 22.7% (5-22) success rate in the season series.

The Blueshirts have notched 11 goals in 32 power play opportunities (34.4%) in their last eight games vs. the Islanders, including 6-15 (40.0%) in four meetings this season.

The Islanders rank 28th with an 11-17-6 (28 pts) mark on the road. The Rangers rank 26th with a 15-16-3 (33 pts) record at home.

The Islanders are 5-9-4 vs. the Atlantic Division. The Rangers are 10-8-1 vs. the Atlantic Division.

Henrik Lundqvist is 20-9-5 with a 2.11 goals against average and three shutouts in 35 career regular season games vs. the Islanders.

Courtesy of the Brilliance of Eric Hornick
When the Islanders pulled within 9 points of eighth place on Saturday, it was the first time they were that close to the final playoff position in the East since Nov. 23.

The Islanders have not scored a power play goal at MSG in three years, going 0-25 over their last ten games in Manhattan.

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Point Blank on XM: I’ll be on with Islanders enthusiast Jim “Boomer” Gordon at 3:05 pm on NHL Home Ice on XM Radio to discuss the battle at MSG.

Ness Leaving School: Reports out of Minnesota suggest Aaron Ness is finally ready to do what he should have one or even two years ago – leave the University of Minnesota hockey program and turn pro. The skilled, but small defenseman has not developed much since his freshman season with the Gophers. He just completed his junior year. Ness may say he is ready for the pros, but are the Islanders ready to sign him? If the team’s scouts (such as Eric Cairns) are still believers, it should be an easy negotiation. After three years of merely adequate performance since the Islanders drafted him in the second round in 2008, Ness has little leverage in bargaining for a deal.

Score-O: This is a pick’em game, so make your prediction of the outcome. For the Rangers, it’s the first game back after a week away. For the Islanders, it’s their best chance to play spoiler against their biggest rival. Al Montoya at the Garden vs. Henrik Lundqvist. A Tavares breakout in New York City, or will Marian Gaborik find his scoring touch? Bailey and Okposo or Dubinsky and Callahan? Another great game for Blake Comeau against the Rangers, or will Moulson step up again? Does Prust fight Konopka?

Make your prediction of tonight’s score in Comments, along with any other thoughts on this post and Tuesday’s game.