‘Free Agent Line’ Steps Up In 6-4 Win
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, October 6, 2007

When the Islanders lost Jason Blake, Ryan Smyth and a plethora of other players this offseason, fans and media alike didn’t predict much success for the team in the near future.

Even after they picked up Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko over the summer, no one in the hockey world thought the Isles could crack through the top ten teams in the Eastern Conference.

However, after a combined ten point night from their newly formed “free agent line,” including two goals by Comrie, the Isles skated to a convincing 6-4 win.

Down 1-0 early in the first, another new Islander, Josef Vasicek, managed to make an impact after some nifty passing by Miro Satan and Bruno Gervais. Tying the game with his first goal in his first game with his new team, Vasicek’s goal got them back in the game, but the Isles defense wasn’t exactly perfect in the early going. Giving up two more goals in the period on shoddy defense, Rick DiPietro was forced to make many difficult saves.

However, the Isles offense was able to fight back against Buffalo, as Fedotenko potted in his first of the season, while a Chris Campoli goal tied the score at three goals apiece before the end of the period.

If the first period was a compelling shootout of two energetic offenses, then the second period was an Islanders drive-by shooting. Getting two goals in the period from Comrie, who signed a one-year deal with the team this offseason to get an opportunity to become a first line center, the Islanders got their first lead of the night and didn’t let up.

Looking like they’ve played together for more than a handful of exhibition games, the “free agent line” of Fedotenko, Comrie and Guerin took over the game. A combined +6 with ten points and 11 shots on goal for the game, the three new additions have started their Islander careers on the right foot.

However, it was the entire Islander team that continued to dominate in the final period. Getting a goal from Trent Hunter on the powerplay, their third goal with the man advantage on the night, the Isles found themselves with a 6-4 lead in the third period and showed no signs of slowing down. Receiving a complete effort from all four lines tonight, the Islanders didn’t stray from their pledge to play gritty, blue-collared hockey. Nevertheless, it was the play of their defense and goaltending late in the game was what nailed things down.

Making 22 saves on 26 shots, with many of them on odd-man rushes, DiPietro was solid despite giving up four goals and got better as the game went on. Despite the play of DiPietro however, the Isles defense was also solid over the last two periods. Blocking shots throughout the game, Brendan Witt and Hunter helped the Islanders cause and played an influential part in tonight’s victory, while Radek Martinek logged 23 minutes and looked like the player he was before a season-ending leg injury last season.

Scoring six goals on opening night for the first time in team history, the Islanders offense will try for a repeat performance against Buffalo tomorrow, while the defense will try and make sure DiPietro doesn’t have as tough a time stopping puck in the early going.

For the time being however, the Islanders have to be satisfied with a convincing 6-4 victory against a Buffalo Sabres team that features a high-powered offense and a goalie the caliber of Ryan Miller.