New York Hockey: Jeff Skinner

Grabner named Calder finalist

April, 19, 2011
New York Islanders rookie Michael Grabner was named one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy Tuesday, the award given annually to the NHL's rookie of the year.

Grabner, who led all NHL rookies with 34 goals in 2010-11, is joined on the short list by Carolina Hurricanes young gun Jeff Skinner and the San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture. The hype surrounding the latter two has been fairly substantial on the national scale, so you would assume Grabner is the underdog, though his 52-point campaign certainly makes him no less deserving. Perhaps most impressive is his plus-13 rating on a team that was outscored by 35 goals this season.

The award is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, which may further hurt Grabner's chances. Members of the New York and New Jersey chapters of the PWHA, those who should be most familiar with Grabner's solid season, boycotted the voting in protest of the revocation of blogger Chris Botta's press credential by the Islanders this season.

The winner will be announced at the NHL award show, June 22, in Las Vegas.

Here's how the three rookies stack up statistically:

Grabner, who made just under $850K this past season, should be in line for a hefty raise as he hits restricted free agency on July 1. With speedy scorers in high demand in today's NHL, look for the Islanders to try to lock him up before he gets exposed to potential offer sheets from other teams.

Team Staal falls; Lundqvist makes history

January, 30, 2011
Since you're no doubt already up to speed on the "whats" and "whens" of the 11-10 Team Lidstrom All-Star Game win, here's a little more from the "whos." Here's what the three New York-area members of Team Staal had to say in the postgame scrums.

Historical Hank

Henrik Lundqvist was unaware that he had entered the record books as the first all-star goalie to face (and stop) a penalty shot. "Wow, so I guess I'm part of history," Lundqvist said after signing the game jersey of tonight's teammate Alex Ovechkin ... who brought on the penalty shot by throwing his stick to try and waylay the breakaway of Matt Duchene.

Lundqvist hadn't seen much of the Avs' sophomore center, so he didn't have much to draw on before stopping the attempt by sliding his left leg out to block the bottom left corner of the goal mouth.

"I didn't have anything on him. I just try to do the same thing every time [on penalty shots]," Lundqvist said. "I just try to be patient and make him make the first move."

Brotherly Love

Marc Staal may not have been the driving force between the crowd's appreciative chants of "Go Team Staal" but he thought it was pretty neat nonetheless. "Obviously it wasn't for me," Marc said, before noting that he gave his brother some flak between the second and third periods. "I told him he was letting everyone down by not scoring a goal."

Not that defense is ever the focus of the All-Star Game, but Marc may not have been arguing from a position of strength. Through two periods he sat at a game-worst minus-4. He later rallied in the third to cut his rating to a more acceptable minus-2. His brother Eric also scored a pair of goals in the final frame.

Staal noted it was a little weird to watch his defensive partner jumping deep into the offensive zone quite a bit. Normally paired with the stay-at-home Daniel Girardi back on Broadway, Staal was tonight matched with dynamic Pittsburgh Penguins D Kris Letang. "It was a little unusual but he scored a couple of goals. It was fun."

The Devil's Work

Patrik Elias spent his All-Star Game skating with Carolina Hurricanes fan-favorite Jeff Skinner, better known as Bieber on Ice. The team-first vet from New Jersey spent most of the game trying to set up the rookie for a goal that would have brought the roof crashing down, but the 18-year-old just couldn't convert a number of great scoring chances. Perhaps he was blinded by all the flash bulbs.

After the game, Elias said he and his other linemate, Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche, made a concerted effort to try and get the wunderkind a goal.

"Yeah, we were trying hard. Maybe a little too hard," Elias said. "I almost pulled a groin muscle trying to spring him on a breakaway."

Elias is fine though and is very, very impressed with Skinner, one of the lead candidates for this season's Calder Trophy.

"He's great at going to the net and he's got such strong legs, which is what makes him so good," Elias said.

While the youngster didn't score, Elias did put a goal on the board, the first All-Star Game goal of his decorated career. "I grabbed a puck after the game," Elias said. "It's my first, and you know, it could be my last."


In case anyone is actually interested in the final game stats:

Marc Staal: Minus-2, 1 SOG, 17:01 TOI
Patrik Elias: G, A, 1 SOG, 15:44 TOI
Henrik Lundqvist: 11 saves, 14 shots faced in 18:36 TOI

W2W4: Islanders vs. Hurricanes

November, 3, 2010
The Isles will try to end their four-game slide in Carolina tonight where Eric Staal and the Hurricanes are battling a two-game skid of their own. Both squads will show off some of the top young skaters tonight with rookie Jeff Skinner currently leading the Canes in the scoring department. Here are three keys to spy when the puck drops.

Hey, Look! Someone's Healthy!
Formerly injured center Rob Schremp will make his season debut tonight after battling a bum back. On the sidelines he missed out on the team's early success and has been unable to help when things started to sour four games ago. Expect him to come out with a lot of energy between Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau on the second line tonight. And did someone say line combinations?

New Look Lines
With Schremp's return, head coach Scott Gordon will roll out some new line combos. According to Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank, here's how they looked at practice:

Moulson - Tavares - Parenteau
Bailey - Schremp - Comeau
Weight - Nielsen - Grabner
Martin - Konopka - Hunter/Gillies

Perhaps the changes will wake up Bailey and Comeau who have been quiet lately. Bailey in particular has no points and is averaging just one shot on goal since returning from the hip pointer he sustained against the Maple Leafs Oct. 18. Comeau's been getting his shot off, but he's also sporting a minus-5 rating over the past three contests.

The Islanders should have a big edge in the faceoff circle tonight considering the Canes are flat out awful on the draw. Through their first 11 games, Carolina has claimed just 37.4 percent of their faceoffs. Look for the Isles to own the time of possession edge tonight. And if they can turn that edge into offense, look for them to put their losing streak behind them.