It's been a pretty slow few days as the NHL and AHL have paused for their respective All-Star breaks.
If you somehow missed it, Rick DiPietro was elected to his first NHL All-Star appearance this season, becoming the third Islander goalie to earn that honor.
Rick, sporting one of the Eastern squad's bright red sweaters, started the game on Sunday as the first of three goalies in a 8-7 Eastern victory. Rick, feeling no ill effects from his various "tweakings" over the last week (a nice word for injuries that would sideline lesser goalies), saved 15 of 16 shots before giving way to Tomas Vokoun and Tim Thomas. While Rick left the ice with a 5-1 lead, the East frittered away said lead but did right themselves in time to claim the victory on a late Marc Savard goal.
If DP can get back to New York without bumping, lacerating, or hyper-extending anything on the plane ride home, we'll consider his first time at the dance a success.
Moving on, a few words need to be penned about the AHL All-Star game. That one will take place tomorrow (Monday) and will feature organizational prospect Jeff Tambellini. At the break JT has 51 points (25 G, 26 A) and has been Bridgeport's clear on-ice leader. The game will be played in Binghamton, and we'll update if Tamby has an eye-opening performance.
One player who will not be going to an All-Star game this season (but we expect to go to many future ones) is Kyle Okposo. On Saturday night, his last game before the hiatus, he scored an early goal in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms. At this juncture Kyle has played 9 games and has one point per game (2 G, 7 A) to show for his effort. He and the rest of the Sound Tigers will be back on the ice on February 1st.
Since the All-star break is traditionally the time to evaluate where your team stands, we'll give you our general picture of the franchise:
First off, the state of the Islanders is strong. They have a superb motivator in coach Ted Nolan and a general manager (Garth Snow) who has shown competence and a willingness to execute trades. While not blessed with the league's best talent, this collection of parts has played well enough to challenge for a playoff spot, much more than "pundits" and "experts" gave them credit for this past summer.
Furthermore, after years of missteps and trades that siphoned off young talent, the Islanders finally appear to be building from within. With "The Rick" having broken through to the level of NHL-elite status this season, it seems to be just a matter of time before Jeff Tambellini, Kyle Okposo, and perhaps a few others (are you listening Sean Bergenheim?) follow in his wake.
It looks as if the Islanders are at last developing players to supply All-Star games with talent for both now and tomorrow.