We catch up with our pals at Lighthouse Hockey on our three burning questions leading into tonight's contest.
With that, here's Mike B of Lighthouse Hockey in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
1. Where do you see Nino Niederriter finishing the 2013 season and is it fair to say the Islanders have mismanaged him to this point?
The Isles are very high on him, notwithstanding his awful year in the NHL last season. Some background: the Isles had limited options with Nino at age 19 last season -- ineligible for the AHL (which is really where he belonged), and probably too good for juniors. On top of that, the Isles had few options otherwise, as we saw while suffering through Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston all year. The story was much the same when Josh Bailey was drafted and they are very aware that his development was slowed in some ways. Now the Isles have a deeper group of forwards and with Nino finally turning 20, he's eligible for the AHL. As a result, the Isles are taking his development slowly. Unless there's a bad run of injuries, I think Nino will stay in Bridgeport.
Considering the doofiness of the agent's trade demands (HIS demand, BTW, and not Nino's), it's not surprising that this looks like a case of the "same old Islanders" but, ironically, it's because the Isles are doing things differently now that they look bad.
Honestly, I think Nino's play in the AHL this year demonstrates his skill is developing properly and he'll be fine when he gets back here.
2. For a team that has made the basement of the NHL's Eastern Conference its home over the past few years, what's different about this Isles team that has fans optimistic?
This Islanders team is finally deep enough to have to make hard choices about filling their roster. For example some fans were upset that Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness aren't up with the big club. But the Isles can afford to hold them in reserve with Bridgeport and toss them into the fire if someone's hurt. The same goes for Nino and Ryan Strome's return to juniors. And to think they have Josh Bailey or Jesse Joensuu currently sitting on the IR shows the abundance of young talent this team possesses. That's the biggest thing that gives fans hope that things have turned around. They finally have skill filling the entire roster.
3. If Rick DiPietro's career were a movie, would it be a laugh out loud comedy or a tragic drama?
It would be more of a dark comedy, I think. What he's had to go through is miserable and I think that most fans have a lot of respect for the heart he's shown trying to fight his way back into playing shape. He clearly has incredible determination and effort to make it back, but it's the ideology that he can stay healthy that has become a farce. He's far too physically compromised to be effective at the NHL level anymore. I think the jokes become a coping mechanism for the fans. They're frustrated watching him put up replacement-level play every time he's out there. (The Fishstick Rick meme on our site grew out of this frustration).
Personally, I always hope we're wrong, and he somehow becomes good again.
Ed. Note: We thank Mike B for giving us his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. If you want to read the Q&A we did with them in collaboration for tonight's game, it can be found HERE. Look for our next edition Tuesday with our pals at Habs Eyes on the Prize.