The New York Islanders’ efforts to claw their way back into the playoff race look a little bit more practical now that defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is ready to return from a concussion. He will play against the Boston Bruins tonight after spending 46 contests on the sidelines, according to Newsday.
Under better circumstances, Visnovsky is one of the league’s top offensive defensemen and a reliable minutes eater. For now though, the Islanders are expected to err on the side of caution by having him skate alongside Matt Carkner on the team’s third defensive pairing. That should change once he shakes off some of the rust.
Visnovsky was chosen to be a member of Team Slovakia and obviously he’s been able to return with a bit of time to spare before the Olympics. However, the Islanders previously said that they wouldn’t want the 37-year-old blueliner to play in the Winter Games even if he managed to return before the break.
The Islanders also got Evgeni Nabokov (quad strain) back, but he will serve as Kevin Poulin’s understudy tonight.
Update: Visnovsky is paired up with Thomas Hickey rather than Carkner during the Islanders’ pregame warmups.
News and notes from around the crease…
Stalock back in for San Jose
The Sharks will start backup Alex Stalock for a rivalry game against Los Angeles tonight at the SAP Center.
The start will be Stalock’s third in the last six games, and he’ll look to extended a shutout streak carried over from his previous two games — a 3-0 win over Florida and a 1-0 decision over Winnipeg. All told, Stalock’s shutout streak currently sits at 140:59.
No word yet on who L.A. will start in goal.
Carolina rides Khudobin
Anton Khudobin has been the Hurricanes’ goalie of record in the last 11 games, and he’ll have a chance for 12 tonight when Carolina hosts the Blue Jackets.
Khudobin, one of the NHL’s best bargains this season at $800,000, has won three straight and boasts solid numbers on the year — 10-3-0, .927 save percentage and 2.20 GAA. He’s a big reason why the ‘Canes have been able to stick around in the Metropolitan Division playoff chase.
Tonight, he’ll be going up against fellow Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bruins at Islanders: Kevin Poulin for the Isles, Chad Johnson likely for B’s.
Sabres at Penguins: Ryan Miller vs. Marc-Andre Fleury
Avalanche at Stars: Semyon Varlamov for Colorado, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas
Oilers at Canucks: Ilya Bryzgalov vs. Roberto Luongo
Earlier today we talked about how the New York Islanders wanted to stop blowing 2-0 leads and close out games. Sure enough, they did neither of those things against the St. Louis Blues this afternoon, but it wasn’t without controversy.
Thomas Vanek scored what he and the Islanders thought was the game-winning goal to salvage the win with 1:15 to go in overtime, only to have it overturned on replay by officials from the NHL War Room in Toronto.
According to the NHL’s Situation Room blog, Vanek kicked the puck past Jaroslav Halak with his left skate. On replay, the only obvious part was that the puck went off Vanek’s skate. Deliberately kicked though? Take a look at the video:
The reaction to the overturned goal around Twitter was strong.
With neither team scoring in the final seconds after the overturned goal, it was off to the shootout where Kevin Shattenkirk completed the Isles collapse beating Kevin Poulin and giving the Blues a 4-3 win.
Of course, how the Islanders got there is part of this story. Again they jumped out to an early 2-0 lead only to have Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko score twice to make it a 2-2 game. Matt Martin put the Isles ahead 3-2 in the third, but T.J. Oshie scored with 27 seconds left in the period to tie it 3-3.
We knew they were having issues finishing games, but that’s rough.