THE MORNING SKATE: The Eastern Conference Logjam, Mr. Marginal's Stick Handling

With 30 games to go in the regular season, the Islanders play host to the Montreal Canadiens at the Coliseum tonight. Both teams are part of the ‘Basement 5′ of teams that are all hogtied to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Along with Tampa, Carolina and Buffalo there are five teams clinging to playoff hopes, all between 9-11 points off of the 8th place Senators. So, tonight is another big game for the Islanders against another conference opponent. But of course, if you’re still trying to make any kind of a playoff push, every game is big.

To put in numerical terms what the Islanders need to do, they need 40 points in their last 30 games. That would require being somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-10, excluding OTL for the sake of simplicity. Given that the Islanders are 11-5-2 in their last 18, they’re being asked to play over .500 hockey for nearly 50 games. Is it possible? Absolutely. And the Blue Jackets could go 82-0 next year. Is it reasonable to expect this team with significant blue line injuries to be able to carry that pace over a 50 game margin? Hard to believe.

The Islanders stole a game in Philadelphia the other night thanks in large part to Evgeni Nabokov. They took a game in Ottawa last Friday with secondary scoring from Matt Martin and even tertiary scoring from Mark Eaton. They’re getting some bounces and stealing some games, things Islander Country is not used to. They’re going to need a whole lot more of that to keep things close, if the team as a whole doesn’t step up. More food for thought; 10 of the last 30 games are against the Atlantic Division.

Here’s an interesting stat from my former FanHouse colleague Adam Gretz:

Those teams were the Blues in ’09 and the Rangers in ’07. Islanders in ’12? Start the campaign. Vote Tavares/Nabokov in ’12!

THIS IS WHAT FIRST OVERALL STICK HANDLING LOOKS LIKE

I’ll be back with a full game preview soon, but for the time being here’s some video from the Islanders’ trip to Ottawa last Friday. If you’ve ever wondered how it feels to have world class talent, look no further.

After the jump, Evgeni Nabokov’s tour of the NHL media from yesterday…

Yesterday, Nabby was on both XM Home Ice and NHL Live on the NHL Network. Apparently people want to talk to you after a 45 save road performance. To hear his interview on XM, right click this link and then click ‘save as’. It’s an MP3 file. Here’s Nabby on NHL Live: