Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Hockey [Print without images]

Monday, November 21, 2011
W2W4: Isles vs. Penguins

By Katie Strang

At a glance: The floundering Islanders’ recent woes will take a backseat to the celebrated return of superstar Sidney Crosby Monday in Pittsburgh. Losers in 11 of their last 13 games, the Islanders will be desperate to spoil Sid the Kid’s season debut and redeem themselves from a horrendous 6-0 shutout loss to the Bruins Saturday.

Back in business: After a harrowing 10-month absence from the game to recover from post-concussion symptoms, Crosby will play his first game of the 2011-12 season for the Penguins. His status has caused frenzied speculation for weeks and the whole NHL will be captivated by his return Monday at Consol Energy Center.

Fright night: Coach Jack Capuano blasted his team for a pathetic effort in Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Bruins and made it clear he was disgusted with his club's compete level. It was the fourth shutout loss of the season for the Islanders, who are in dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Okposo returns: In the wake of Crosby’s return Kyle Okposo’s first game back from a three-game benching seems trivial, but his exile was a clear and distinct message from coach Jack Capuano: no one is safe. The 23-year-old alternate captain was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career last Tuesday against the Rangers and watched the next two following games from the press box as well. Scoreless in his first 14 games of the season, Okposo will try to reverse his fortune against the 11-6-3 Penguins.

Ullstrom recalled: Struggling to receive offensive contributions from many of the team’s key players, the Islanders recalled Swedish center David Ullstrom from Bridgeport. Tied for the team lead in scoring, the 22-year-old has 12 goals and two assists in 17 games for the Sound Tigers.

Lineup changes: With Okposo’s return and Ullstrom’s recall, Capuano will have to sit two forwards. Following the team’s eyesore of an effort Saturday night, there are plenty of candidates. Blake Comeau, who was scratched for two games early in the season has been held off the scoresheet in 15 games. Josh Bailey and veteran Brian Rolston have also been limited with, three and four points, respectively. (Update: According to Staple, Comeau and rookie Nino Niederreiter are the scratches).

Who’s in net? : With both Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and Al Montoya (hamstring) on injured reserve, 21-year-old Anders Nilsson will get his first NHL start according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. DiPietro, who was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period Saturday, will back up.

Bottom line: The 5-9-3 Islanders struggles are beginning to look eerily similar to last season, when the team buried itself in November and caused the firing of head coach Scott Gordon. Mired in 29th place, they have only one more win and three more points than the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. If the season is to be salvaged, it needs to happen now.