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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Brothers and sisters, I have seen the light. Oh, sure, I had once led the wrong life, traveled down that wicked path more than once, but I have been redeemed. My mind is clear and my heart is pure and I believe…

I believe, that is, in the Islanders.

Oh, you may laugh, you in your ivory towers (or those who worship the Rangers or Devils), but the Isles have spoken to me and though I cannot pretend to understand their ways, the predicted Apocalypse 2007 has not showered Long Island in brimstone just yet.

The team built by GM Garth Snow, coach Ted Nolan and owner Charles Wang is an unorthodox one to be sure, but effective. And coming off Thursday’s 4-0 whitewashing of the occasionally potent Tampa Bay Lightning, one must assume that barring calamity, these Isles are following in the footsteps of their underdog brethren from last season.

Not that there’s a whole lot left from that miracle eighth seed. What fascinates me most about these Isles is how they took three free agents from different teams and turned them into an automatic force of a top line, a chemistry experiment that re-discovered mercury.

While Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie knew each other briefly in their Edmonton days, that was a long time ago and adding former Bolt Ruslan Fedotenko to the left wing completed the unlikely troika.

Through 10 games, the top line has combined for 33 points and sit 1-2-3 in team scoring. Couple that with the fact defenseman Chris Campoli comes next in line (he’s actually tied at nine points with Fedotenko, but the forward has more goals) and his defense partner, Bruno Gervais, is on pace for 40-plus points and you can see why the Isles are once again in a good place.

Along with young guns such as Campoli and Gervais on the point, the Isles also boast the underrated pair of Radek Martinek (whom the organization values quite highly) and Brendan Witt, the bruising D-line leader who excels at getting superstars off their game.

As for goaltending, Rick DiPietro could be doing better, but assuming he doesn’t see Al Montoya on Lexington Ave., he at least gives them a true No. 1 capable of raising his game (see last night’s shutout, where D.P. also tallied an assist).

And of course, there’s the vaunted coaching strategies of Nolan. Players work for Nolan and that always seems to work in the win column, so why mess with it? With character guys such as Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter in the mix, there’s little chance of the Isles tuning out their bench boss.

So forgive me, Isles fans. For too long I was a non-believer. Whatever the opposite of smoke and mirrors is, that’s what this team has got. Apparently hard work can pay off and for the Lunchpailers of Long Island, it’s the key to their success.


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