Other Isles Need To Step Up In Yashin's Absence|
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, December 2, 2006
Things seem to never go Alexei Yashin’s way.
After starting this season with 28 points through his first 22 games and leading the New York Islanders to the top of the Atlantic Division, Yashin injured his right knee after a collision with Washington Capitals forward Matt Bradley and will be out anywhere from two to four weeks.
"It's a big loss, no doubt, especially with Yash playing so well, but every team has to deal with injuries," Islanders coach Ted Nolan told the Associated Press. "It's up to everyone else to step up their games and take advantage of the opportunities they're provided."
Islanders assistant captain Mike Sillinger feels the same way.
"He was playing some great hockey, so it's a little setback for us," Sillinger said.
With Yashin out, the Islanders will look for Jason Blake to continue to inspiring play as of late and will pair him with another mammoth in the mold of their captain, Victor Kozlov. Acquired two weeks before the season began, Kozlov was originally paired with Yashin on the first line before slumping his way down to the third. In their first game together on Tuesday, Blake and Kozlov formed a formidable duo teaming up on a beautiful one-timer goal in a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite the loss, the Islanders proved they could play well without their captain and got another solid performance out of Rick Dipietro. Leading the Conference in goals against average, due to the stellar play of the Dynamic Duo of Dipietro and Mike Dunham, the Isles may be much better off without Yashin than the rest of the NHL may think. Even with Yashin in the lineup, the Islanders weren’t a team that was red hot offensively. As a matter of fact, the resurgence of Brendan Witt and Sean Hill on the Isles D-line and the consistency of Dipietro and Dunham had more to do with the team’s success than anything else.
Also, Ted Nolan’s coaching has been admirable, rolling four lines on a consistent basis and giving every player on the team an opportunity to contribute on both sides of the puck. Despite this, players like Miroslav Satan and Trent Hunter have had problems producing. With Yashin’s absence, they will be asked to step up their games and make sure the team maintains their hold on a playoff spot.
This isn’t the first time the Isles have been without Yashin either. Practically getting his hand stepped on by the skate of Michal Handzus in 2004, the Isles captain missed more than thirty games. Nevertheless, powered by Blake and company, the Islanders found a way to make the playoffs. With a much deeper line up than years past and a matured goaltender, chances are, even without their reborn captain, there’s a distinct possibility that that they’ll defy the critics and make the playoffs.
Patrick Hickey Jr. also has his own new Islanders site, TheDriveForFive.com, where he is chronicling the Islanders 2006 season. The site is also updated everyday, so check it out!