Jack Hillen (concussion) and Andy MacDonald (hand) are both close to making their returns to the New York Islanders defensive unit. Although dates have not been set in stone, there is a possibility that both defenseman can be back in time for the home-and-home games vs. the New York Rangers, which begin tomorrow night.
Although that is great news for a team that has two very-inexperienced blue-liners currently playing on its roster in Travis Hamonic and Dylan Reese, (both of whom have played very well, most notably Hamonic, who lacked any previous NHL experience), offense continues to remain a major issue.
Currently the Islanders have 72 goals scored against them this season. Although they have lost 14 games in a row and sit at the very bottom of the league with a dismal 15 points on the year, their defense and goaltending haven’t been their weakest points. Their 72 goals against is just four more than the Washington Capitals, who sit at the very top of the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Thrashers, who are also in the playoff hunt as they sit in seventh place in the East, have the same amount of 72 goals against. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who sit in fifth place, have 78. The Edmonton Oilers currently have the worst stat at 89. That says a lot about this team from the blue line to the goal line, considering the injuries to Hillen and A-Mac as well as Mark Streit, Mike Mottau and Milan Jurcina.
The real issue lies in the goal-scoring department. The Islanders have only scored 46 on the year. That’s 40 shy of the first-place Washington Capitals. If you want a more realistic comparison, the third-place Montreal Canadiens have only had 47 goals scored against them, and the eighth-place Boston Bruins have scored 59 goals of their own. The Oilers have accumulated 59. To sum it up, the Isles are only one of three teams in the East that haven’t scored 50 goals on the year (the other two being the Devils and Leafs). All 15 teams in the West have scored at least 50 goals so far.
Rick DiPietro is working his way back into a regular routine while Dwayne Roloson stays sharp at the ripe age of 41. The team’s defense has taken major hits since before the season even started and has managed to survive and show stability, even down the depth chart. But the offense cannot say the same. In fact, defenseman James Wisniewski leads the team in points with 14. Matt Moulson is right behind him with 13. Without disrespecting the Wiz, he is not Mike Green — he’s not even Mark Streit. He has done a decent job of stepping up his play, but he should not be the team leader in points.
In the 14-game losing streak, the Islanders only scored one goal or less in nine different losses.
Hillen and MacDonald will be welcomed additions when they make their return from the press-box, but this team still needs help putting the puck in the back of the net.