December A Critical Month For Islanders
By Kerry Gwydir
(December 2) Take your shots right now because the title of this story
is stating the obvious.
The Islanders have posted losing records in their first two months of
the 2002-03 season. Peter Laviolette's squad stumbled to a 3-6-1 start
in October, which concluded with the start of a six-game skid that
found its way into the beginning of November. The 5-7-2 mark last
month isn't much better, but there were signs as late as a week ago
that the Islanders were getting their act together.
A 3-0-2 mark going into Thanksgiving had the Islanders at the .500
mark for the month going into November's final two matchups. But a
rocky start to last Friday's 4-2 defeat against Columbus and a
second-period penalty-parade squashed a quality start in a Saturday
defeat in Ottawa.
The Islanders know the time is now to get things going because another
losing month is not going to cut it.
"We've already spotted enough points to the rest of the conference,"
said assistant captain Adrian Aucoin. "It's time to start getting them
back and put something together."
Eight of the Islanders' 13 contests in December are at home, a venue
in which the Islanders went 21-13-5-2 last season. Yet, this year, the
Isles are 4-8-1 on Long Island as they've let the opposition come into
Nassau Coliseum and grab points.
"We have to get our act together at home," said Aucoin. "We've been a
better team on the road and that's not a good trend. We have to be up
for these games at the Coliseum and we have a lot of them this month.
Our fans have been great. We've been getting great crowds as always.
It's time for us to start translating these games into wins and taking
advantage of home ice."
If there's a positive going into Tuesday night's contest at the
Coliseum vs. Vancouver, which sports a 10-game winning streak coming
in, it's that the Canucks were on a similar roll last season on their
only visit to Long Island. Marc Crawford's squad was red-hot on March
21, sporting a five-game winning streak while the Islanders were mired
in a three-game slide with defeats at the hands of Toronto, Ottawa and
What happened? The Islanders came away with a 3-2 win, helped by Chris
Osgood's third-period rejection of a Markus Naslund penalty shot.
"I don't want to worry about who we play," said Aucoin. "There's so
much parody in the league right now, anyone can beat anyone else in
this league on any given night. We have to be concerned with ourselves
and how we are going to go out and execute our gameplan.
"Vancouver is obviously playing extremely well and it's going to be a
very tough game. We just have to get back to playing the way we were a
week ago. We played intelligent, hard-nosed hockey and we were burying
our scoring chances."
Honoring Clark Gillies (7pm)
Vancouver at Islanders (FSNY, ESPN 1050 AM)
By Corey Witt
(December 3) If there has ever been a sense of urgency within the
confines of the Islanders' lockerroom, look no further than Tuesday
night's game. The Islanders, who are winless in their last three, are
looking to start December off with a bang. Problem is, the red-hot
Vancouver Canucks, winners of their last 10 games, are in town.
"After taking a pretty good leap forward in the last couple of weeks,
we took a half-step back," said captain Michael Peca. "We need to
start playing more consistently and start putting some points back up
on the scoreboard."
However, the urgency isn't stemming from poor play. In fact, most of
the club believes only one aspect of their game struggled in Ottawa.
"Even a jammed door couldn't keep us out of the penalty box," noted
defensemen Adrian Aucoin. "We just kept taking stupid penalties. We
were pretty good five-on-five, we just played undisciplined. If we can
come out with the same attitude and hustle as we did in Ottawa, then
we'll play a really good game tonight."
Said head coach Peter Laviolette: "We dominated when it was
five-on-five, it's just too bad we were in the penalty box for most of
the second period. That changed the [Ottawa] game. When we do that, it
takes us away from our game plan and puts guys on the bench for most
of the period. We can't make those mistakes against Vancouver. They're
The Canucks come to Long Island in first place in the Northwest
Division with 34 points, only two points behind the Dallas Stars for
the Western Conference lead.
"Their top line is dominating for them," said Laviolette. "They have
three guys with 25, 26-points apiece, they're really on top of their
game right now. Saying that they're first line scores a lot is an
understatement. I think it's 75-points between three guys. That's a
lot of offense that we have to defend against. "
To defend against the potent offense headed by the Markus Naslund -
Brendan Morrison - Todd Bertuzzi line, Laviolette will try to get as
favorable of a match-up as possible. The Isles get the last line
change on home ice.
"We're going to have to be extra sharp and make good, solid plays out
on the ice," said Aucoin. "The new rule changes will make it a little
tough with some of their guys. We have to shut that top line down."
Besides the threat caused by their top scoring line, which has
accumulated 80 points in 24 games, goaltender Dan Cloutier has been a
human force field in net for the Canucks. Cloutier was named the NHL
Player of the Month for November with an 11-1-0 record, a 2.15 GAA,
and a.920 save percentage.
"Up and down, they're a complete team," said Laviolette. "No one is
questioning their ability, they're a tough opponent. They will keep us
on our toes."
Tuesday night is also Clark Gillies Hall of Fame Night. Fans are asked
to arrive 15 minutes early for a pre-game ceremony honoring Gillies'
induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. All fans will receive a Clark
The Scoop On: Vancouver Canucks
(7pm, Fox Sports NY, ESPN 1050 AM)
By Kerry Gwydir
(December 3) The Vancouver Canucks are kicking butt right now. They've
won 10 games in a row as they head into Nassau Coliseum for a Tuesday
They are currently 4-0 on a six-game road swing. They were back on the
ice Monday after enjoying an off-day on Sunday to deep-sea fish
following a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
The Canucks post a 15-5-4 record for 34 points and are two points
short of NHL-leading Dallas. They tied the franchise record for
longest unbeaten streak -- they were 5-0-5 from March 5-25, 1977 --
and they went 11-1 in November, their only loss at Dallas on Nov. 6.
Vancouver is seven wins away from the NHL winning streak record set by
Pittsburgh in 1993. They finish up this road trip in New Jersey on
Heading Vancouver's effort is goaltender Dan Cloutier, who was named
the NHL's Player of the Month for November. Cloutier posted a 11-1-0
record, 2.15 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
During the Canucks' 10-game winning streak, Cloutier has been the
starting goaltender nine times, beginning with a season-high 35 saves
in a 5-2 victory at Phoenix on Nov. 9. Cloutier posted victories each
time as Vancouver swept a five-game homestand Nov. 12-22, including
victories over St. Louis, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit. He
completed the month with a 29-save performance on Saturday over the
Playing in his sixth NHL season and third with Vancouver, Cloutier has
posted a 14-5-3 record, 2.30 goals-against average and .913 save
percentage. The 26-year-old leads all NHL goaltenders in victories and
ranks third in minutes played (1,279).
The Canucks have been getting offense from a number of sources.
Captain Markus Naslund is leading the Canucks with 15 goals and 28
points. Todd Bertuzzi has 11 goals, 26 points and a team-high 47
penalty minutes. Center Brendan Morrison has 10 goals and 26 points.
They form the Canucks' top line.
One of the big reasons for Vancouver's success is their
penalty-killing unit, which is best in the NHL. They are tied with New
Jersey with an 88.1 percent kill rate. The Canucks PK unit consists of
a pair of names that will be familiar with Islanders' fans. Trevor
Letowski and Matt Cooke make up one unit, followed up by former
Islanders Trevor Linden and Mats Lindgren.
Isles Still Tinkering
Bates, Parrish join Yashin on top line
By Alan Hahn
December 3, 2002
With few other options available because of a quiet trade market and
an organization mandate handed down by owner Charles Wang to be
patient, the Islanders will go back to juggling lines when they host
the red-hot Vancouver Canucks tonight at Nassau Coliseum.
Captain Michael Peca has been moved from his Lucky 7 linemates, with
Shawn Bates and Mark Parrish rejoining Alexei Yashin on the top line
and Peca centering a line with Brad Isbister and Arron Asham. The more
consistent third line of Dave Scatchard, Jason Wiemer and Jason Blake
will stay intact.
"Neither one of [the top two lines] were working the last few games,"
coach Peter Laviolette said.
It is a demotion of sorts for Peca, who is scoreless in his past four
games and struggling three weeks into his return to the lineup. And it
is another attempt to find something to keep up Yashin's recent
production (13 points in his past 10 games). Rookie Mattias Weinhandl
had provided hope as an effective linemate for Yashin, but he will be
out at least another week with a shoulder sprain.
So the search continues. And the season grows shorter as the
Islanders, winless in three (0-2-1) after a five-game unbeaten streak,
remain on the outside looking in regarding playoff standings.
"We're trying to give this team every opportunity to figure it out,"
general manager Mike Milbury said. "I don't have an answer as to when
do we say, 'Hey, we've got to do more than threaten and cajole.' I
don't know when that time is. We don't have forever. We're closing in
on a third of the season, not just the quarter anymore. So we have to
take hard looks at this."
Asham is one player who is likely getting his last hard look. He was a
healthy scratch against Ottawa on Saturday and has yet to make a
consistent positive impression as an Islander. The only solace the
team can take from Asham's ineffectiveness is the player they traded
him for, Mariusz Czerkawski, has been a non-factor for the Montreal
Canadiens. Czerkawski, in fact, was placed on waivers yesterday by
Montreal. The Islanders will not bid.
But they continue to monitor the trade winds. Activity usually picks
up just before the week-long Christmas roster freeze goes into effect
"We've had some thoughts here and there," Milbury said, "but for now,
we're trying to get this group together. We're trying to be as patient
as we can be. But eventually, patience runs out."
Notes & Quotes: Defenseman Kenny Jonsson, who missed Saturday's game
against Ottawa with a knee strain, practiced yesterday and will be a
game-time decision tonight.
Radio: ESPN (1050)
DRAG ON ISLES
By EVAN GROSSMAN
December 3, 2002 -- If you thought the Islanders, with all their speed
and quickness, were going to benefit from the crackdown on
obstruction, and from ultra-sensitive officiating, boy, were you wrong.
Not only are the Isles struggling to find consistent scoring, but they
also are hamstrung by being the most penalized team in the league.
With all the attention being paid by referees to clutching and
grabbing, the supposedly speedy Islanders are being whistled at an
alarming rate for penalties associated with those who can't move their
The hooking, holding, tripping and slashing calls have made Islander
games seem more like wrestling matches than hockey games, as the Isles
have paraded to the penalty box night after night.
The latest Greco-Roman affair was the loss in Ottawa on Saturday in
which the Senators were handed 10 power-play opportunities (the
Islanders had four).
"It takes the flow out of the game," said coach Peter Laviolette,
whose Isles host the Canucks tonight.
"Ten penalties are probably double the amount we should be taking."
For the year, the Islanders have been short-handed 153 times, tops in
the league. Per game, they have averaged 20.9 penalty minutes,
second-most in the NHL behind only Buffalo.
"That's just too much," Laviolette said of the recent rash of penalties.
Laviolette is particularly concerned about his players not being able
to skate with opponents and resorting to steer wrestling in their own
There also is the notion that officials have it in for the Islanders
after Laviolette was fined twice in the last two years for ripping the
way games are called.
For example, the team was upset with a Chris Osgood slashing call
against Ottawa that could have gone either way. But it seems those
calls seldom go the Islanders' way.
"Anything in the gray areas have been called against us," said captain
Michael Peca, who is now regularly back on the penalty-kill unit.
"We're working hard, and I think we're an aggressive team," Peca said.
It's Gillies' night but ex-Isle
Bertuzzi is in his heyday
By PETER BOTTE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Clark Gillies will be hailed tonight at Nassau Coliseum - with a
pregame ceremony and the ultimate modern honor, a bobblehead giveaway
- for his enshrinement last month into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Todd Bertuzzi - the power forward who got away, and among the best at
his position in the game today - fittingly also will be on hand.
The Isles, whose season-high, five-game unbeaten streak has turned
into a three-game winless skid (0-2-1) with consecutive losses to
Columbus and Ottawa, will play host to Bertuzzi and the white-hot
Canucks, whom captain Michael Peca likened to "a runaway train."
Vancouver has won 10 in a row.
"I know their top line is dominating," Peter Laviolette said after
practice yesterday in Syosset. "We're going to have to try to get a
matchup out there that we're looking for."
Bertuzzi, a former Islander whose current line with Markus Naslund and
Brendan Morrison is among the most productive in the NHL, discussed
his past relationship with Gillies and the Islanders in an interview
with ESPN the Magazine.
Bertuzzi still resents that the Isles put pressure on him by comparing
him to Gillies - and by hiring the Hall of Famer to tutor him - early
in his career.
According to the story, Bertuzzi's wife Julie once stepped in front of
Gillies at an Islanders team function and said, "Can't you just leave
"No disrespect to him, but I'm a different person," Bertuzzi was
quoted as saying. "He won four (Stanley) Cups. I've won diddly squat."
Bertuzzi (6-3, 245 pounds) was traded with Bryan McCabe for Trevor
Linden (now back with Vancouver) in 1998 in what GM Mike Milbury has
admitted was his most regrettable deal.
Before the trade, Gillies once said of Bertuzzi, "If you're built like
a freight train, you can't drive around like a Volkswagen." After
watching him play against the Isles last season, Gillies added, "I bet
Milbury wishes he had him now."
Line dancing: Alexei Yashin (2-10-12 last eight, but minus-12 overall)
was back between Shawn Bates and Mark Parrish at practice yesterday.
BRIDGEPORT SOUND TIGERS WEEKLY
(December 3) LAST WEEK: First Place Sound Tigers Turn Calendar Page
With Tough Four Game Week
The Sound Tigers earned seven of a possible eight points playing four
games in five nights last week. They beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-2
in overtime at home Wednesday, the Springfield Falcons 4-3 at home
Friday and the Lowell Lock Monsters 3-2 on the road Saturday and tied
the Hershey Bears 3-3 on the road Sunday. Saturday's win marked the
end of a 15-game month of November in which the Sound Tigers were
10-2-3 including 6-0-2 at home. They finished last week in first
place in the East Division with 32 points and a 13-5-5-1 record
including 8-2-2 at home and 5-3-3-1 on the road.
WED NOV 27th vs. MCH, 3-2 OTW :The Sound Tigers erased a 2-0
first-period deficit on goals by BRANDON SMITH and RAFFI TORRES.
Torres also scored the game winner in the final minute of overtime.
STEVE VALIQUETTE made 31 saves. The Sound Tigers were 1 for 7 on the
power play, 4 for 5 on the penalty kill and were outshot 33-32.
FRI NOV 29th vs. SPR, 4-3 W: The Sound Tigers built a 3-0 lead on
goals by BRANDON SMITH, ALAN LETANG and MARTIN CHABADA, and JEFF
HAMILTON added the game winner. RICK DiPIETRO made 31 saves. The
Sound Tigers were 2 for 4 on the power play while Springfield was 2
for 6 and outshot the Sound Tigers 34-24.
SAT NOV 30th at LOW, 3-2 W: The Sound Tigers erased a 1-0 deficit with
three unanswered goals by BRANDON SMITH, MARTIN CHABADA and TRENT
HUNTER, and STEVE VALIQUETTE made 23 saves. The Sound Tigers were 1
for 3 on the power play, 4 for 5 on the penalty kill and had a 31-25
shots on goal advantage.
SUN DEC 1st at HER, 3-3 T: In their first-ever visit to the Giant
Center, the Sound Tigers erased a 3-0 first-intermission deficit with
a goal by JEFF HAMILTON and two by JUSTIN MAPLETOFT to earn a point.
RICK DiPIETRO made 32 saves. The Sound Tigers were 1 for 8 on the
power play surrendering a shorthanded goal. Hershey was 1 for 6 on
the advantage and outshot the Sound Tigers 35-30.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: G STEVE VALIQUETTE
Valiquette stopped 54 of 58 shots to go 2-0 with a .931 save
percentage and 1.94 goals against average last week. He has now won
three straight starts and is 4-3 in seven games this season with a
3.25 goals against average and an .894 save percentage.
THIS WEEK: Yet Another Four Game Week
The Sound Tigers will play four games in five nights for the second
week in a row and the fourth time in five weeks. They will host the
Providence Bruins Wednesday, the Manitoba Moose Friday and the
Philadelphia Phantoms Saturday and will visit the Albany River Rats
WED DEC 4th vs. PRO, 7:05 p.m.: This will be the second of four
meetings, the last in Bridgeport, this regular season. The Sound
Tigers are 0-3-2 all-time versus the P-Bruins including 0-0-1 this
season. Providence, Hershey and the Norfolk Admirals are the only AHL
teams the Sound Tigers have played but never beaten. The Bruins begin
this week in first place in the North Division with 30 points and a
12-7-4-2 record including 4-4-3-1 on the road.
FRI DEC 6th vs. MAN, 7:35 p.m.: This will be the first-ever,
regular-season meeting and the first of four this season. The Sound
Tigers beat Manitoba three games to one in the Eastern Conference
quarterfinals last year. The Moose begin this week in second place in
the Canadian Division with 23 points and a 10-10-3 record including
3-7-1 on the road. They will visit the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday.
SAT DEC 7th vs. PHI, 7:05 p.m.: This will be the third of four
meetings, the final in Bridgeport, this regular season. The Sound
Tigers are 3-3 all-time versus Philadelphia, 2-1 at home, and also
tied the Phantoms 3-3 in their preseason finale on October 6th in
Milford. Philadelphia begins this week in fourth place in the South
Division with 19 points and an 8-11-1-2 record including 1-6-1-2 on
the road. The Phantoms will host Hershey Friday.
SUN DEC 8th at ALB, 4 p.m.: The Sound Tigers will begin a six-game
road swing with the second of eight meetings, the second in Albany,
with the River Rats this regular season. They are 6-1-2 all-time
versus Albany including a 1-1 road tie this year. The River Rats
begin this week in fifth place in the East Division with 18 points and
a 6-12-4-2 record including 4-5-1-2 at home. Former Sound Tigers RAY
GIROUX, DAVE ROCHE and KEN SUTTON play for Albany who will host the
Portland Pirates Wednesday and Manchester Friday and will visit the
Syracuse Crunch Saturday.
SOUND TIGERS TEAM LEADERS
Goals: TRENT HUNTER, 11
Penalty Minutes: ERIC GODARD, 86
Assists: TRENT HUNTER, 13
Wins: RICK DiPIETRO, 9
Points: TRENT HUNTER, 24
Goals Against Average: RICK DiPIETRO, 2.19
Plus / Minus: TOMI PETTINEN, +8
Save Percentage: RICK DiPIETRO, .920
SOUND TIGERS SPECIAL TEAMS
Power Play: 21 for 144, 14.6 %; 19th
Shorthanded Goals Against: 6
Penalty Kill: 124 for 138, 89.8%; 2nd
Shorthanded Goal For: 3
SOUND TIGERS STREAKS
The Sound Tigers are unbeaten in their last ten home games, 8-0-2, and
their last eight overall, 5-0-3. G RICK DiPIETRO is unbeaten, 8-0-5,
in his last 13 games. G STEVE VALIQUETTE has won three straight
games. RW TRENT HUNTER (1g,4a) is on a four-game assist and point
streak. D ALAN LETANG is on a four-game point streak (1g,3a) and a
two-game assist streak (2a).
The Sound Tigers were 10-2-3 in a 15-game month of November including
6-0-2 at home. Their current, ten-game, home-ice, unbeaten streak,
8-0-2, equals the all-time franchise record. Wednesday's overtime win
versus Manchester was the Sound Tigers' first during the regular
season since a 3-2 victory at Lowell last February 23rd. It was also
their first at the Arena at Harbor Yard since the only other in team
history, a 2-1 triumph over Albany on November 23rd, 2001. The Sound
Tigers posted back-to-back overtime wins in games two, 2-1, and three,
3-2, of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals versus the St.
John's Maple Leafs as well. Following this week's three-game
homestand, the Sound Tigers will play six straight games and eight of
ten on the road. The busy road stretch will conclude with a New
Year's Eve visit to Manitoba. The Sound Tigers are unbeaten, 4-0-2,
in the last six games in which they have surrendered the first goal of
the game. They are also unbeaten, 1-0-2, in the last three games in
which they trailed after the second period.
SOUND TIGERS TRANSACTIONS
C ERIC MANLOW was reassigned by the Islanders Wednesday and recalled
Thursday. D RAY SHULTZ and G RICK DiPIETRO were reassigned by the
Islanders Friday. D RADEK MARTINEK was recalled by the Islanders
Friday. D SVEN BUTENSCHON was assigned by the Islanders Friday and