New York Hockey: Mikko Koskinen

W2W4: Islanders vs. Canadiens

February, 10, 2011
The Islanders travel to face the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Who Is That Masked Man?

The Islanders have been going through goalies like Liz Taylor goes through husbands lately. With Rick DiPietro sidelined after his brief stint as a prize fighter (record 0-1) and Kevin Poulin out with a dislocated knee cap suffered in warmups this past Sunday, the Islanders will again turn to Mikko Koskinen. Koskinen is the fifth goalie the Islanders have played this season. On Tuesday the 22-year-old made his NHL debut in a 5-3 loss to Toronto.

The Islanders also acquired G Al Montoya from the Phoenix Coyotes for a sixth-round pick. The ill-fated No. 6 overall pick of the New York Rangers in 2004, Montoya could soon see his first NHL action since the 2008-09 season, but Koskinen is expected to get the nod tonight.

Getting Offensive

At the other end of the ice, expect to see Canadiens backup goalie Alex Auld between the pipes. While that hasn’t been confirmed, All-Star starter Carey Price gave up a season-high eight goals in a fight-filled loss to the Bruins Wednesday, a game in which Price dropped his gloves as well. (Just for fun you should scroll through the box score of that game. And set aside a few minutes to get to the bottom.)

Since getting shutout by the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 2, the Isles have scored a combined eight goals over their past two games. Expect them to apply a lot of early pressure against a team that couldn’t stop the Bruins at all Wednesday night.

Uneven Strength

The Islanders need to improve their play when skating five-on-five. Their .66 even-strength ratio is the worst in the league. Considering most of the game is played with five-a-side and the Isles power play is nothing to write home about either (a middling 17.7 percent) the only real way for New York to compensate is to simply play better at even strength. Sage advice, I know.

Michael Grabner could be a key cog on that front though. Fifteen of his 17 goals have been scored at even strength and, remarkably, he carries a plus-4 rating into tonight’s contest. He’s one of only two Islanders in the plus column for the season, with Frans Nielsen (plus-1) the other.

The season closes in

September, 15, 2010
Now well within a month of the start of the NHL season and mere days before veterans report for training camp, the media is starting to roll out its pre-season power rankings. Blog conglomerate SB Nation released its rankings, placing the Devils third in the East behind Washington (No. 1) and Pittsburgh.

As for the Rangers and Islanders? Well, there’s always next year.

Morning Links

  • Speaking of next season, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is already looking ahead to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
  • In the name of all things synergistic, here’s ESPN’s Gare Joyce’s first cut at the top 10 prospects from the 2011 (Insider) field from earlier this summer.
  • As a cap to the summer, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek takes a look at the best and worst offseason moves in the Atlantic Division. On that Kovalchuk signing you may have heard about? Not a fan. (Insider)
  • After losing 5-4 to Minnesota’s prospects Tuesday at Traverse City, the team’s site writes that winning isn’t everything at the tournament. Evgeny Grachev notched his third goal of the tourney, while 2010 third-rounder Andrew Yogan tallied as well. After the game, Rangers player development director Gordie Clark spoke highly of several of the prospects, particularly the defensive tandem of Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath. Clark labeled the duo the tournament’s “best pair by far.” The Baby Blueshirts wrap the tournament Wednesday against Dallas. You can follow the action here.
  • The Rangers and restricted free agent D Marc Staal continue to negotiate, according to the New York Post. Larry Brooks says the talks should conclude in a positive fashion before the opening of camp on Friday, with the discussed deal extending into Staal’s first few years of unrestricted free agency.
  • Blueshirts by the Numbers touches on No. 22, Mike Gartner.
  • Head Coach John Tortorella said newly-acquired netminder Martin Biron will hopefully start around 20 games this season. That would shed about 10 games from Lundqvist’s total last season. Tortorella also discussed the status of Chris Drury, who needs to prove he can still produce, according to the coach. The bench boss also conceded that Wade Redden’s contract affects how he looks at defenseman. Honestly, if the nails aren’t already hammered into Redden’s coffin, a new big deal for Staal should take care of that.
  • The Daily News caught up with Ruslan Fedotenko, who will fight for a job at training camp.
  • Ranger Rants examines the training camp battles on the right wing.
  • Lundqvist was among a slew of NHL stars in New York for the league’s media tour. Though I can’t seem to grab the link, on right now there’s a video interview of the Rangers’ goalie getting asked about his super-dreamy locks. This is appointment viewing, I assure you. If you’re waiting for an actual hockey question though, you can probably save the 30 seconds.

Commissioner Gary Bettman tells Tom Gulitti that there will not be an appeal on the league’s punishment of the New Jersey Devils.
“The arbitrator found that there was a circumvention in this particular case and I’ve been very clear to the board that in the event that there’s a finding of circumvention it has to be punished,” Bettman said. “It’s that simple.”

I would argue that there has been nothing simple about the Kovalchuk signing/circumvention and that the league itself is to blame for previously allowing contracts of absurd length, padded with low-rent years to alleviate a salary-cap hit.