The end of preseason is nigh. Will the penultimate game help answer the last few questions regarding the roster?
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: None. Seriously.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils vs. the New York Islanders (SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey)
Returners: Only two Devils have not appeared in any preseason games. One is Jon Merrill, who may be ready soon. The other is Ryane Clowe, who will definitely appear. Tom Gulitti's post at Fire & Ice about both encourages one to go out to the Rock to see this game.
Clowe will try to play his way. That is, a down-low, physically active way similar to how Dainius Zubrus and Tuomo Ruutu perform. Unfortunately, Clowe's injury history always leaves one hoping that the next hit won't give him yet another concussion. At the same time, he's not going to contribute if he's not out there and he definitely won't if he's entirely out of game shape. So my expectation for him is that he goes out there, he gets the rust off, he does a few nice things, do not drop the gloves under any circumstances, and he's OK by night's end. It's a fairly low bar. Yet, I can't really raise it because the risk of another concussion is very real. As Dave Lozo explained,he may not be able to break the habit of playing his way. So I cannot ignore that risk.
I would like to see Merrill get into tonight's lineup if only so he's got two games to get into form instead of just the last one. Since Bryce Salvador is doubtful according to this post by Tom Gulitti, he could slide right in; otherwise, we may get one more appearance out of Damon Severson and Seth Helgeson. I think Peter DeBoer would ordinarily use him in a top four role right away, so it would be to the player's and coach's benefit to get prepared sooner rather than later. That said, I can't really criticize the precautionary route they have taken for Merrill (and Clowe). A healthy player is always more valuable than an injured one, and if there's no real need to play with pain, then there's no need to play.
Starter: Cory Schneider will start this game tonight and is expected to play the whole game per Gulitti. Who will be behind him? Will it be a clue as to who the #2 goalie may be? Your guess is as good as mine. Keith Kinkaid can point to playing a full game against a competitive opponent. Scott Clemmensen's full game was against a team that didn't even crack ten shots in forty minutes of play.
Out: Gulitti also reported at Fire & Ice that Andy Greene and Scott Gomez will not play tonight. Greene and Gomez have been skating and their injuries are believed to be minor. That's not a big deal for Greene. Like Merrill and Clowe, he's definitely going to be suiting up for New Jersey this season. A night off to get him to 100% is fine with me.
Gomez, on the other hand, is not and this is unfortunate timing for him. While Lou said - in this other Wednesday post by Gulitti at Fire & Ice - that it won't affect whether he signs with the team, I would have to think another game by Gomez would help swing that decision. While Gomez really helped the Devils' power play get going against the Isles, I wasn't as impressed with his performance against the Flyers on Sunday (and definitely not on Thursday). Yes, he scored two goals, but he wasn't exactly a notable player in the game beyond getting a piece of one shot and banging in a gimmie. If he as able to play tonight and show that he can provide value at even strength among other aspects, then I - and likely the staff - would be more likely to want to sign him. We'll see if what he's done so far was enough instead.
Gone: On Tuesday, the Devils cut Tomas Kaberle and Ruslan Fedotenko. Tom Gulitti's article about their releases in this Fire & Ice post cites the numbers game. That was true. I didn't think either would make it regardless. Kaberle was OK but I don't think he did anything that would make me think he would be OK for the better part of 82 games. The Devils are seven-deep on defense. Seth Helgeson and Damon Severson made good cases to be the minor league depth behind them. As for Fedotenko, I don't think he really did much other than draw a call or two. Yes, he didn't play with strong talent but his play didn't indicate that he should have either. The Devils have plenty of left wingers, so there was no need for his services even as depth. I wish both good luck in their future endeavors.
The Devils are down to three goalies, nine defensemen, and twenty forwards. One goalie, Severson, and Helgeson are likely to be sent down. That would leave a minimum of nine forwards to cut. Pay attention to who's up front tonight; they may be making their final statements to stick around. And their absence may be a statement that they won't be.
Sold: The NHL Board of Governors approved the sale of the Islanders on Tuesday according to this report by Steven Marcus and Jim Baumbach at Newsday. That's not necessarily relevant to tonight's game, but it's a big deal for the Islanders in general. It means the official changing of ownership is imminent. That's important for the larger business of running the team and how the team is managed in the long run.
As for the Isles, your guess is as good as mine regarding what they'll do with their lineup. This is their penultimate preseason game as well. However, they will be hosting Boston on Friday. They may save their dress rehearsal for that night and have a lesser roster. They could just as easily split the talent among both games. They could even go full-roster for both, only changing goalies. We shall see what Jack Capuano comes up with tomorrow night. Assuming you're at the Rock.
Seriously: No broadcast (confirmed at the end of this post by Gulitti)? Not even a live feed of the video on RockVision, which was done in years past? Sigh.
Your Take: Good thing I'm going to this game, so there will be a proper recap in the late evening. What do you think will happen tonight? Will Ryane Clowe have a good return to the ice? Does it matter who's behind Cory Schneider tonight? Who would you want to see have a good game tonight? What's up with the Islanders? Please leave your answers, news updates, and thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.