Kudos to Jack Hillen's oral surgeon. The 24 year-old defenseman, who was hit by the face by an Alex Ovechkin-slapshot against Washington January 26, looks fantastic for suffering such a grisly injury.
"I feel great," Hillen said at Nassau Coliseum this morning. "I'm hoping to get back on the ice in a few days."
Following the game, Hillen underwent surgery and had two plates and 9-12 screws inserted to repair a broken jaw and damaged teeth.
Granted Hillen won't be able to absorb any contact for quite awhile and will have to practice with a specially-made new mask contraption, but all things considered, Hillen was pretty fortunate to rebound so quickly.
"I was lucky," he said.
"He looks pretty good for getting hit by a puck in the [face]," teammate Freddy Meyer said before cracking a playful jab at his friend. "He may even look better."
Tim Jackman skated before the rest of the team today; he has been skating on his own for a few days.
Same lines from practice today, with the exception of no Doug Weight.
This is no state secret, but the Islanders REALLY need to win tonight. John Tavares called it "probably the biggest game of the year."
The Islanders have lost six straight, including all four of their most recent road trip, making it only more imperative that they make a good push before the Olympic break.
"The biggest thing is we haven't been able to score," said Scott Gordon (who celebrates his forty-somethingth birthday today ;) )
Said Jon Sim:
"We need to win. Bad. We don't have our mojo right now, but it's there. We've just got to find Dr. Evil and get it back."
Rick DiPietro, who will get the start in goal tonight .said it's tough to duplicate an all-around dominant game like the Islanders had against Detroit, but the Isles just need to tighten the small gaps and holes in their game,
"Sometimes you just go through droughts," DiPietro said. "We've just got to be scrappy and get pucks to the net."
Scott Gordon used the game against Tampa Bay as a prime example of the Islanders problems right now. Gordon feels like the whole team is going cold, and when your most skilled guys are young, it can exacerbate the issue.
"You look at Tampa Bay, those guys [Lecavalier, St. Louis], every move they make is strong, they do everything hard, and that's from experience," Gordon said.
John Tavares' scoring struggles have kind of mirrored the production perils of the whole team. Thursday, Tavares was held scoreless for the ninth straight game.
"There's nothing you can really do, he's 19 years old, this shouldn't be surprising. You look at Steven Stamkos and he had his share of struggles this year. I think there's a false sense that we are further than where we are with our young guys....that's not really fair because they don't have the same age and experience as other guys."
"It's new, being in something like this, but I'm trying to stay as positive as I can," Tavares said. "We've got a big game tonight, probably the biggest game of the year. We've got to get some confidence back in a big home stretch before the Olympic break. There's lots of time for me to get going again along with everyone else."
Martin Biron made 39 saves in Bridgeport's 3-2 overtime loss last night; Brendan Witt played in his first AHL game since April 1997