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On Olympic picks and Islander goalies
TORONTO -- The big deal up here Tuesday is the Canadian Olympic roster announcement at 11 a.m.
From an Islanders perspective, there isn’t much mystery. John Tavares will be named to the squad for the Sochi Games and it was a lock even before Monday night’s hat trick/five-point game, though that was probably a nice bonus for Steve Yzerman and the rest of the Canadian brain trust.
Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner were quite unsurprisingly named to the Austrian team, which will make its Olympic debut. Those two are Nos. 1 and 2 in the annals of Austrian hockey, so they will go and probably play quite a bit together in the Austrians’ likely short stay. Probably for the better if you’re an Isles fan.
Lubo Visnovsky was named to the Slovak roster on Tuesday, but a source told me over the weekend there’s no chance he will go and play in a fifth Olympics. Even if he’s cleared to resume skating this week -- a big if, still -- he’ll need at least three weeks of conditioning to get back into game shape. That takes Visnovsky right to the week before the Olympic break and there’s no chance the Islanders or the 37-year-old defenseman would go and risk further injury by being out of shape and try to play Olympic games.
Russia names its squad Tuesday as well and with Monday night’s injury, I would imagine Evgeni Nabokov’s dreams of being the No. 3 goaltender are dashed. Depending on what an MRI exam says Tuesday, some other dreams may be dashed as well on this continent.
Garth Snow is surely stepping up his discussions for a goaltender, even without knowing the severity of Nabokov’s injury. It was severe enough to put Nabokov on IR immediately after the game -- they didn’t have to do that with the emergency recall of Anders Nilsson, but doing so means it’s not a small injury.
And the Poulin/Nilsson tandem did not fare well when Nabokov missed a month with a groin injury in November and December: The two young goaltenders combined to have a 1-9-2 record in Nabokov’s absence, and the one was Poulin’s shootout victory steal over the Sharks. One or both of them need to be vastly better to keep Snow from making a move.
The Caps’ Michal Neuvirth is sitting out there, having asked for a trade. My guess is the Caps might be interested in Andrew MacDonald, but I doubt Snow could give up a defenseman right now with the Isles’ D corps being so thin. Neuvirth’s trade demand may mean Caps GM George McPhee would give up the 25-year-old for a smaller return, but likely not as small as Snow would prefer.
Neuvirth could make sense going forward, with one year left on his contract.
That’s the most common-sense maneuver right now. Cam Ward is back on IR in Carolina, meaning Justin Peters isn’t available; Scott Clemmensen would be a cheap fix from Florida, but helpful? Maybe.
Jonas Hiller has found his game with Viktor Fasth out in Anaheim, so that deal may not be so cost-effective anymore. Joey MacDonald is usually available at almost no cost, but again, is that an improvement?
Ben Scrivens is an interesting name too. Martin Jones was lights out when Jonathan Quick was injured, but Scrivens wasn’t too shabby either. Of course, the Kings have a pretty good defense in front of any goaltender.
The hardest part for Snow would be parting with a second-round pick, which would seem to be the going rate for a decent goaltender. That could conceivably leave the Isles without a pick in the first two rounds of the draft, which is not part of the plan.
Still, with the team back to scoring goals and gutting out some wins, it might be worth the risk. Can always get a pick back after the season or at the deadline.