Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders defeated the Rangers 4-3 in a four-round shootout decided by Matt Moulson. The win had brought the Islanders to within 6 points of the final playoff spot. However, as we speak circumstances have changed - the Isles are now 8 points back going into their Sunday evening game in Ottawa.
Not surprisingly, two main contributors in the emotional win were unrestricted free agents P.A. Parenteau (two goals) and Evgeni Nabokov (33 saves). Matt Moulson added a goal and an assist, and John Tavares assisted twice as well.
Friday also marked the return of Travis Hamonic, who missed almost three weeks with a broken nose. Hamonic ingratiated himself well in his comeback, despite a full cage, with an assist and a +2 rating.
There were a few takeaways from tonight's game. Kyle Okposo played with high intensity and determination. Okposo's game has been inconsistent, as the 23-year old forward still has a raw game and is in his first full season off a major injury. That said, while his turnovers and offensive play left a lot to be desired, his physicality and intensity were exactly what he needs to bring every night. Okposo is still a big part of the Islanders going forward and will need to build on Friday's game to take his overall game to the next level.
The Islanders gap control and structure are nowhere near the Rangers' level, which made this game a lot closer that it might other wise have been. Despite outworking and outhustling the Rangers, the Islanders still found themselves giving up more shots than they took and were caught in the defensive zone more often than not. The most glaring and obvious mistake - the Marian Gaborik breakaway - gave the Rangers life and brought their fans and team back into the game. The overall theme was the Rangers were much quicker to close gaps and win board battles. That's something that Jack Capuano will have to adjust immediately as the Islanders will continue to play tougher and tighter conference games going forward.
Finally, the atmosphere at the game last night was unrivaled to any game other than opening night. The fans were into it (without any noticeable altercations), the teams were into it, and it resulted in a very loud Nassau Coliseum. It made for a very fun and enjoyable night at the old barn.
On Saturday, the Islanders waived disappointing forward Brian Rolston and called up David Ullstrom. Rolston only contributed 9 points on the season (4 goals), despite getting constant powerplay minutes. For the Islanders, it was a move long overdue. Rolston is ineligible to play Sunday at Ottawa, but if he clears, the Islanders can insert him back in the lineup Tuesday at Washington.
As far as the cap implications are concerned, Rolston's salary still counts on the cap due to his contract being signed after he turned 35 years old. However, it does not count in full, as the Islanders are granted $100,000 as per the CBA. (Thanks to Capgeek).
If he clears, the Islanders may elect to bring him back up through re-entry waivers, meaning if any team took Rolston off the Isles hands, the Isles would only be on the hook for half his salary. This is a possibility, given that Arthur Staple tweeted earlier that the Isles have received some inquiries on Rolston. Most likely, however, this would require the Islanders to take on a large contract in return.