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Gushing about Long Island, Islanders; Plenty of Wild storylines tonight

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • March 2, 2011 - 11:35 AM

Update: Backstrom in net, Theodore tomorrow.

Bobby Nystrom came into the locker room this morning to say hi to the Wild. Son Eric said he was hoping somebody would ask him to suit up: "He's freaking ready."

Cal Clutterbuck quipped that he plans to be in former Oshawa linemate John Tavares' ear all night.

This was Islanders draft pick Jared Spurgeon's first-ever time inside Nassau Coliseum. In training camp, he was at their practice facility.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard said he thought often on the ice this morning about his last game inside this building -- the concussion he got from Nate Thompson.

Big game tonight. Islanders are young and tough and competitive. Coach Todd Richards said it's important for the Wild to stay composed if run, play between the whistles, play 5-on-5.

Hello from scenic Uniondale/Hempstead!

From the very first game I ever covered at Nassau Coliseum (where I didn't watch a minute of the game, I just stared at the banners that are even with the press box) to now, my heart always skips a beat or two when I walk across the parking lot from the hotel to the greatest sporting venue in pro sports.

Not kidding. If (when) the Coliseum ever goes, a little piece of me will, too.

I was very young when the Islanders won their four Stanley Cups, but I grew up down the road in Plainview/Old Bethpage during that time. I used to go to games with my dad and brother, used to pretend I was Duane Sutter and Mike Bossy in street hockey games, used to pretend I was Jiggs McDonald and fake announce the games when they were on SportsChannel.

To use Bobby Nystrom's term in this father-son article here, I think that's what gave me the hockey "bug" despite being so young.

Between the old Islanders and former North Star and Edina legend Bill Nyrop taking me under his wing in the early-90s (read here), that's basically how I credit the fact that a person who never spent a minute playing real, legit hockey can grow up to be a hockey writer and have such passion for the sport.

In fact, when I was a kid, I used to deliver Newsdays on my paper route. I'd load the papers in my grocery basket and while delivering, I'd read every single article on the Islanders. I mean, honestly, as a child, I don't think there was an Islanders article I didn't read because of that paper route.

So deep down, who knows if that created the hockey writing bug in my veins as well?

I just love the Coliseum. I've been there a gazillion times, whether it was for hockey games or soccer games (I once played a soccer game at halftime of an old NY Arrows game) or the circus. Eric Nystrom's scent anecdote in today's story is for real. It's the greatest smell on Earth (OK, maybe not).

I've probably told this story before on here and God knows I've told Denis Potvin and Duane Sutter and Clark Gillies and Bill Torrey and Billy Smith this story before, but I finally got to tell Bobby Nystrom this story on the phone the other day.

I used to go to nursery school and day camp at Camp Green Hill in Woodbury. I don't think it exists anymore. But my parent's friends, Rob and Madeline, used to live in this community through the woods next to the camp. Many of the Islanders lived there, from Trottier to Potvin to Nystrom to Gillies. My friends and I, and we're talking at age 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (whatever), used to time it where we'd sneak out of camp to Rob and Madeline's house just to watch those Islanders come home from practice or training camp.

Just one of those vivid memories that sticks with me to this day.

Anyway, enough gushing.

About to walk to the Islanders (I'm sure) optional morning skate because they played last night.

Lots of storylines actually tonight:

1. Eric Nystrom's second-ever NHL game at the Coliseum

2. John Tavares and Cal Clutterbuck were junior linemates

3. Pierre-Marc Bouchard's last game in the Coliseum in March 2009, he got a concussion, a pretty infamous one.

4. Jared Spurgeon was drafted by the Islanders, then not signed by the deadline, re-entered the draft, went undrafted and was signed by the Wild after tryouts last summer.

Real quick, got many questions about the Petr Kalus trade for "future considerations" i.e. nothing. The Wild's just giving the kid a chance to move on in Springfield because he was scratched pretty much every night in Houston. It's a favor for the player and agent rather than forcing to sit anymore, collect dust and destroy his still-NHL dreams.

You can make trades after the trade deadline, but they're not eligible for the NHL or postseason the rest of the way.

I learned this in Florida once when in mid-March, I'm sitting in the Igloo press box and handed a press release well after the trade deadline that Filip Kuba was traded for Rocky Thompson. Remember, the Wild got Aaron Voros after the trade deadline once for a seventh-rounder from New Jersey.

I inquired, and yes, this, according to Columbus PR, is the first-ever Wild/Blue Jackets trade, at least involving a player. I could have sworn the two teams exchanged draft picks once at a Draft, but regardless, expansion walls have crumbled.

It's a new era without the two Dougs (Risebrough and MacLean) running the respective teams. The Wild and the Blue Jackets have finally become trading partners. 

This may be the lone blog until after the game. Because this is my old stomping ground, I actually have some things to do and friends and family to see after the morning skates. So follow me on Twitter for morning skate updates (www.twitter.com/russostrib). The lineup is set (Jed Ortmeyer in for Chuck Kobasew).

The only question is goaltender. Wouldn't surprise me if Jose Theodore starts after Niklas Backstrom's game the other night, but Theodore's actually good in the second of back-to-backs and his record at MSG is better than Backstrom's, so maybe coach Todd Richards goes with Backstrom.

Gut feel is Theo, but we'll see. Find out on twitter.

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