The Morning Skate: Europe Bound Isles Update and Bridgeport Notes

Per Katie Strang, defender Andrew MacDonald is the latest Islander to head to Europe. He’s going to be playing for HC Energie Karlovy Vary (say that five times fast) of the Czech league. That now makes seven Islanders playing in Europe: MacDonald (CZE), John Tavares (SUI), Mark Streit (SUI), Frans Nielsen (FIN), Michael Grabner (AUS), Lubomir Visnovsky (SLV), and Jesse Joensuu (FIN).

As for Grabner, who signed with his hometown team of Villacher SV late last week, the team didn’t waste any time trying to capitalize on merchandise opportunities. They cleverly labeled the Grabner jersey t-shirt as a ‘limited edition’ but who knows, it could be a year long engagement depending on how things go here in North America.

SOUND TIGER NOTES

We’ll be focusing on the AHL version of the Islanders a bit more this season for obvious reasons. Late last week the Sound Tigers opened their season with two pre-season games against Providence and Manchester (one note on AHL games; you can watch the action on the AHL’s website for a fee if you’re desperate itching for some hockey action). On Thursday, the Sound Tigers beat Providence (Bruins’ AHL affiliate) 3-1 off goals from Mike Halmo, Johan Sundstrom and Nino Niederreiter (SH). Anders Nilsson made 34 saves in the win. From the CT Post’s Mike Fornabaio on Nilsson’s effort:

“I felt kind of rusty in the first period, actually,” said Nilsson, beaten only on an odd-man rush in his first actual game since the day after St. Patrick’s Day. “In the first period, I had to think, what should I do in different situations? As the game went on, I felt better and better. I didn’t have to think about things.”

It worked out to 34 saves. “He covers the net so much,” Pellerin said, pleased with the way Nilsson controlled his rebounds.

I was trying to dredge up the memories, but it seemed as if Nilsson was a little feistier in the crease than I remembered, putting the stick into the midsection of Kyle MacKinnon on the way through (which turned into a brief scuffle between Halmo and MacKinnon), giving a hard shove to a P-Broon backing in on him. He said that wasn’t something he was doing consciously. “I had a lot of energy. I hadn’t played in a while,” he said with a laugh. “Hopefully I can keep that going, being aggressive. Usually when you play aggressive, you play good.

“As long,” Nilsson added, “as I don’t take any penalties.”

On Friday night, the Sound Tigers were shutout in Manchester against the Monarchs, 2-0. The Monarchs are the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, which is one heck of a trip anytime the Kings need to call up a player. The Sound Tigers were dominated on the score sheet, getting out shot 41-17. Of course this is pre-season and the two games were played on back-to-back nights, so it’s nothing to be overly concerned about yet. Kevin Poulin played this one in net and had a shutout going until the third, so he did make an impressive 39 saves in the loss. Again, from Fornabaio:

Poulin’s goals against were on a rush (might well have been odd-man, definitely in quick transition off a blocked shot) and on a good-play, bad-angle rebound by a quite skilled player.

Having Poulin and Nilsson get extra playing time and development against what is certainly a highly skilled AHL is great for the Islanders and their young pair of netminders. I would imagine the hope is that when the 2013-14 season rolls around — regardless of whether there is NHL hockey this year — one (both?) of these players should have earned the right to significant NHL playing time. That’s looking way out to the future, but certainly the line of development that should be hoped for at this moment. Nilsson and Poulin will also be splitting playing time in the AHL for the foreseeable future, as the Sound Tigers optioned their third string goalie, Ken Reiter, to Fort Wayne of the ECHL.

One other note is that Travis Hamonic left the Manchester game with what coach Scott Pellerin called a “slight little” injury. There’s not really any more info other than that, as the team Twitter account is calling the injury day-to-day and neither Twitter nor Pellerin are getting into specifics about what the ailment is.