Barring a miraculous run in the remaining 34 games of the season, the Islanders appear headed for yet another season without playoff hockey. Save for John Tavares’ electric play and another standout year for Matt Moulson, the struggling team looks bound for another Top-5 draft pick. Below are three vital questions for the Isles to answer after the All-Star break.
1. Can they make things interesting?
Following a dreadful first half last season, the Islanders flourished in absence of pressure and picked up their play after the break. Although they still finished 27th in the league, the team was not mathematically eliminated until the last week of the season. Can they show the same fight this year?
2. Will Evgeni Nabokov be traded?
Despite his contentious waiver claim last season, Evgeni Nabokov has moved on to emerge as the Islanders starting goaltender of 2012. The 36-year-old netminder has won four of his last five starts and was named the NHL’s 3rd star last week. Will the Islanders dangle him as trade bait as the deadline nears? Or will they ride him out for the remainder of the season with Al Montoya backing him up?
3. Can Tavares keep this up?
En route to his first All-Star nod, Tavares has put together a stellar 20-goal, 49 point campaign through 48 games. The 21-year-old center, whose league-best 12-game point streak was snapped Monday is on pace for a 33-goal, 51-assist season in his third year pro. Tavares has flourished as the team’s top talent and one of the league’s rising young stars – can he continue to carry the Islanders offense the rest of the season?