UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskiken won’t be challenging Billy Smith and Glenn Resch to reside in the pantheon of great Islander goaltending duos any time soon.
Some would argue that oldtimers Battlin’ Billy and Chico could still do as well as the youngsters who are now the 1-2 tandem. To be fair, Poulin is holding up after with a .924 save percentage in seven games before meeting the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. This certainly wasn’t the plan to have raw farmhands running the crease show, but this being the Isles, neither is it that unusual.
Three quality tenders were sidetracked this year, Dwayne Roloson in a trade, Rick DiPietro in a needless Groundhog Day goalie-on-goalie grapple with Brent Johnson of Pittsburgh, while Evgeni Nabokov simply refused to report when New York spoiled his plans to return to the NHL with a contender by claiming him on waivers.
When callup Nathan Lawson damaged a knee last Friday, the Isles were suddenly looking at the bottom of the depth chart.
DiPietro and Lawson certainly have lots of company in the press box. Close to 10 Isles are out long-term with injuries.
“At this point, whatever bad can happen just seems to happen,” DiPietro told reporters early this week, after a Johnson punch caused facial fractures and re-injured his bum knee. “Not just myself, but the entire team. It’s not small groin pulls and you’re out a couple days, it’s major stuff. It’s hips and knees and faces.
“You never go into a fight expecting you’re going to get smashed in the face that hard, or with these kind of consequences. But it happens and you move on.”
The Isles had begun to show a little improvement in the standings in the New Year, even though the surge by the New Jersey Devils pushed them down to last place in the East. But with DiPietro out long-term again, Poulin put a respectable record of 4-2-1 together heading into Tuesday. The Montreal native was with Victoriaville of the QMJHL last year. The 6-foot-6 Koskinen has been on a bad Bridgeport farm team this year, with a personal record of 5-15.