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A few notes from last night’s scrimmage:
-- There was a little bit of chatter before the game about how the Bruins’ AHL affiliate, Providence, had “beaten” their parent club in a scrimmage the night before. Last night’s event result was hardly a cause for concern, seeing as how both Isles goaltenders played and played well at times. So there’s that. The Isles may get their doors blown off on Saturday, but if it happens, it won’t be as a result of “losing” to the Sound Tigers.
-- The Isles did surrender three power-play goals in seven opportunities (both teams were scheduled ahead of time to have at least two power plays in each period), which Jack Capuano joked about before his postgame presser. But Capuano is right to be concerned about special teams, which will play an even bigger factor than usual with what will be some erratic play (and possibly some erratic officiating, given they’ve been off for a few months as well) at the start of this frenetic season.
Capuano told me a day earlier how he wants his PK, especially the Michael Grabner-Frans Nielsen pair, to get back to the aggressiveness that marked their excellent 2010-11 season. It wasn’t there yet last night and there’s not much time to get there. The other forward PK combos were Matt Martin-Marty Reasoner, Casey Cizikas got a spin, and even Kyle Okposo and John Tavares took a few PK shifts. Josh Bailey will figure in the mix when he’s back as he was one of the more effective PKers last season.
-- The power play, one of the better aspects of the Isles’ 2011-12 season, was effective again last night. Matt Moulson, who led the Isles with 14 PPG last season, jammed in a loose puck in the slot, his favorite method of goal-scoring, and Martin fed Okposo for another PPG -- Martin will be used as the net-front forward on the second unit for now, and that’s an area he can create a good niche since his 5-on-5 minutes won’t be big.
Capuano was counting on Lubomir Visnovsky to be a PP quarterback on the first unit, along with Mark Streit, so when Visnovsky gets here and gets up to speed, that could change things.
-- Both goaltenders had some good moments and even a couple excellent ones. Rick DiPietro started in the Bridgeport net and was superb in the opening 20 minutes, stopping 14 of 15 shots -- “fundamentally sound” would be the words I’d use, and that’s a big development for him. He was in good position on all shots, he didn’t stray from his net much and he kept it simple. If he is going to start the year as the backup, he has to be a simple guy in net when he gets his chance. Trying to do too much has hurt him in the few games he’s had over the last few seasons.
Evgeni Nabokov got better when he had more work switching to the Bridgeport goal. Neither looked terribly rusty, which is pretty key given the situation.
-- Aside from Nino Niederreiter, whom I wrote about off the game, a few other Sound Tigers played notably: Johan Sundstrom scored a pretty goal off a break-in and plays a solid game; Griffin Reinhart, switched to the Bridgeport side for the scrimmage, played smart and ended up with a couple assists; and Brock Nelson, though he let Moulson get away from him for an easy tap-in, looks like he knows what he’s doing.
-- The Isles who stood out: John Tavares, because that’s what he does; Moulson, who knows where to be; Colin McDonald, who threw a few big hits early and seems capable of filling a depth forward role; and Thomas Hickey, who jumped right on the ice after his waiver claim and had a couple nice plays, including one well-timed move down the slot for a feed that David Ullstrom should have finished off.
-- Garth Snow is still mining the waiver wire for depth help, since the Isles appear ready to head into Saturday with 13 healthy forwards -- one of whom is Ryan Strome, who’s ticketed to return to the OHL either during or after his six-game NHL window -- and eight defensemen. If he can find a suitable forward, I’d imagine Strome will go back sooner rather than later. I don’t get the sense that the Isles have any interest in having Strome or Reinhart simply stick around to watch if they can’t fill a role.
-- Appears that Visnovsky’s timetable is for an arrival with the Isles in the first week of February. Isles will have played nine or 10 games by then. Hope he’s ready.