10:20 am – A league source tells Point Blank that Islanders general manager Garth Snow has contacted NHL teams in search of a mobile and experienced defenseman.
“Garth is asking around, trying to make something happen,” said the source. “His biggest obstacle is that a lot of teams are looking for the same thing.”
The Islanders play in Philadelphia tonight with a thin blue line. Radek Martinek is out for the season. Andy Sutton (groin) could return on Saturday for the home match with Boston, but is out tonight and tomorrow. Bridgeport recall Andrew MacDonald is getting 12 minutes a game, while veteran defenseman Brendan Witt is at a team-low minus-15 and only played 11 minutes Saturday in Tampa Bay. Other than Dustin Kohn in a pinch, the Sound Tigers do not have a defenseman knocking on the door.
NHL defensemen that could be available and fit the Islanders’ low-cost needs – in terms of the acquisition price of a mid-round draft pick – include Carolina’s Joe Corvo (injured), Aaron Ward, Toronto’s hard-hitting but mobility-challenged Garnet Exelby and – in a salary dump but a long shot to return – Chicago’s Brent Sopel. Corvo and Ward would be sound acquisitions.
(Trivia note: in his 40 days on the job, Islanders GM Neil Smith tried to sign Ward, but – oh, the irony – was out-bid by the Rangers).
Teams also in the hunt for defensemen include the Rangers and Columbus.
With little action in the NHL trade market, the Islanders will probably have to get by through the holidays with the blue line they have. The best option passed through their hands when Los Angeles snatched Randy Jones off re-entry waivers from Philadelphia last month. The 28-year old Jones is 4-5-9 in 12 games and is playing more than 20 minutes a game since joining the Kings – all for well below the league average salary.
While the Islanders unearthed a hidden AHL gem in Matt Moulson, they did not make the most of their early position in the waiver pecking order and $17 million of cap space (it can’t all got to Kovalchuk!). The Islanders did take Rob Schremp, who has watched more hockey games from the press box lately than Peter Botte.
For depth on defense, the Islanders may have to scour the AHL ranks for a veteran stop-gap. San Jose/Worcester defenseman Joe Callahan, who was solid in 18 games with the Islanders last season, is available.
Snow is doing what good GMs do – dropping lines in the water, as he calls it. Although he probably will not land a defenseman this week, he is laying the groundwork for a potential deal in February. The way the Islanders have continued to find ways to win this season, it should not be too late.
PB on NHL Home Ice Tonight: I’ll be on with Jim “Boomer Gordon” on Sirius/XM NHL Home Ice beginning at 6:00 pm talking about tonight’s game and all things Islanders.
Tonight’s Lineup: Martin Biron in net tonight, Dwayne Roloson gets an encore in Toronto on Wednesday. Same forward lines and D pairings.
As if the Islanders’ D is not having enough trouble staying healthy, Katie Strang tweeted this morning that Brendan Witt was hit by a car in Philadelphia. This being a hockey player – this being Brendan Witt – he will play tonight.
As expected, Jeremy Reich has cleared waivers. He’s a good addition to the Sound Tigers and could be a solid toughness call-up for the Islanders.
For the Flyers, Ray Emery has been placed on IR. Brian Boucher starts. The Flyers are also missing Simon Gagne, Blair Betts and Darroll Powe. Consistent with his slumping team, Jeff Carter has just one goal in his last 11 games – count on one tonight. James van Riemsdyk is goal-less in nine games, or around the time FanHouse wrote him up as one of John Tavares’s top competitors for the Calder.
Lavi Thanks LI: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette tonight meets the first franchise to give him a shot as a head man. “The Islanders are always going to have a special place in my heart,” the Stanley Cup-winning coach told Point Blank. “They gave me my first opportunity when I had no idea if one would ever come. We made great friends on Long Island, friends we have to this day. The fans were wonderful to my family. We loved our time with the Islanders and will always be thankful to Charles Wang for everything he did for us.”
DP Progress: Rick DiPietro continues on the road back in Bridgeport. The goalie took the full practice with the Sound Tigers yesterday and stayed late for extra shots. He’s practicing again today.”I feel good,” he said. Next up: Friday in Springfield or Saturday in Hartford, followed by – if his knee continues to hold up – a home game a week from tonight against Portland. If DiPietro has no setbacks, gets in NHL game shape and sharpens his play, he will return to the Islanders in the middle of next week.
With everything going so smoothly in DiPietro’s protocol, a year later it continues to astound that the Islanders never had him start his rehabilitation slowly last season with games in Bridgeport.
Point Blank Night Tomorrow: It’s a lock – we’ll have our biggest crowd yet on Wednesday night when PB Night moves to SOCIAL, across the street from the Coliseum. Islanders vs. Toronto at SOCIAL on a dozen screens. Guests: Steve Webb, Deb Placey. Free buffet and $1 Bud drafts from 7-8 pm. Complimentary shots after each Islanders goal. Free raffle for all. All ages welcome, 21 and over to drink. SOCIAL is at 1002 Hempstead Turnpike across from the Coliseum. PLEASE RSVP (YESSES ONLY) AT THIS LINK. I’m also on Facebook. Don’t miss it.
Kinger Gets the Play-by-Play: Since the game is on Versus and there’s no Plus broadcast to simulcast, Chris King will do the honors on the Islanders Radio Network. Last I heard, he’s doing the game all by himself. A color commentator would be nice, but if anyone can do pull off the play-by-play and keep the listener informed, it’s Kinger.
Deep Thoughts: As good as Atlanta has been, the Islanders are just four points behind them. As bad as Toronto has been, the Maple Leafs are now just four points behind the Islanders.
Score-O!: Predict the score (and the winner) of tonight’s game in Comments.