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Gallof: Islanders, Rangers Renew Love Affair; More On A Now Defensive-Minded Milbury

Expect Nabokov Between The Pipes When Battle Of NY Resumes At MSG
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Brad Richards (credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images), John Tavares (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brad Richards (credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images), John Tavares (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com

It’s time once again for what is always an energetic meeting between the Islanders and the Rangers. The puck drops on Act III Thursday night at the Garden.

The tale of these two teams is quite simple. The Rangers are on a tear near the top of the Eastern Conference, in a fierce battle with Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Florida for first place, while the Islanders are better than just three other NHL teams, despite some more inspired play of late.

Over each of their last 10 games, the Islanders have kept pace with the Rangers and have shown they might actually be better than what their overall record is. The Rangers are elite and playing like it, going 6-3-1.

And whenever these two get together, you can almost certainly throw out their records. The Islanders won the first of two meetings at Nassau Coliseum, 4-2 on Oct. 15, and the Blue Shirts returned the favor a month later.

The Islanders have an opportunity build on their winning ways thanks to a bit of a turnaround from late November into December. They are riding a 5-3-2 stretch that has moved them within 8 points of the final playoff spot, and are coming off a sweep of Northwest Division-leading Minnesota and Winnipeg, which is just a point out of the eighth spot in the East.

One of the Isles’ biggest issues right now is health. If you thought “Ghost Protocol” was just a movie, guess again. The Islanders have been hit hard of late by a cavalcade of ailments, including two more concussions, which seem to have replaced the general descriptors of “upper body injury” and “lower body injury” across the NHL this season.

Starting goalie Al Montoya took a cross-body block to the head from the Jets’ Evander Kane in Winnipeg on Tuesday night. Rookie David Ullstrom also got knocked for a loop. As a result, both fan favorite Michael Haley and goalie Anders Nilsson have been called up from Bridgeport. Expect Evgeni Nabokov to be in net Thursday night. He filled in admirably after Montoya went down, making 19 saves in a little more than a period and then stopped both shots he faced in the shootout.

We’ll learn a little bit more about what the young Islanders are made of when they take to the ice at MSG.

A Tale of Two Sides

The alternative take on the alleged Mike Milbury incident is leaping out front and center. The mighty power of public relations is alive and well now that “Mad Mike” has taken some public lumps this week. He recently sat down with selected news outlets to get his “side” of the tale out in the open. The latest was a two-hour sit-down with Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe.

In that interview interesting terms were being applied, such as “targeted” and “bullied,” and a lot of personal elements were used by the former Islanders coach and general manager in an attempt to change the public’s perception.

For instance, Milbury told Dupont: “I understand the culture and implication and conclusion some would draw from this.” He might be eloquent on television as an analyst for NBC, but those are far from the types of words he uses on a daily basis, if you get my meaning.

The injection of public relations into news is always something to be war of. Sure, you want to get the other guy’s take, but when your other witness in this type of alleged incident is the parent of Milbury’s own child, you can’t expect much. Milbury, for his part, went from angry and outraged during in the immediate aftermath of the moment to practiced, studied and very much in damage control in front of a hand-picked reporter. It is a process and it’s important to be aware of how it attempts to manipulate perceptions.

This is not to say that that there was nothing constructive to take from Milbury’s interview, but it has to be taken with a grain of salt because there’s a lot at stake for Milbury, and that he’s clearly got some PR people that are working overtime to help him.

Milbury tells a tale of his own son being the focal point of derision and bullying by the player on the other team due to Milbury’s own history and infamy, which includes the shoe incident back in the 1970s at the Garden when Mike played for the Boston Bruins.

The article goes on to say that it was a Milbury who supported “Winter Classic” kids pick-up games and that he was merely breaking up the fight and not starting one, though he admits to putting his hands on the other child.

However, this is not the only version of what actually happened, as many blogs and the Boston daily newspapers seem to take on differing sides.

It is the Boston Herald that focuses on the other team’s take.

“It’s disturbing. Our reaction right now is to make sure he’s not around our kids. What happens after that is up to the authorities,” said a parent of a player from the opposing team. This also has to be taken with a grain of salt simply because it is two sides capitulating against one another.

Deadspin’s take goes very deep with information, including an unnamed parent of the opposing team that describes Milbury’s kid as the bully, and who finally got as good as he gave for once. In that article, Milbury’s is called the instigator to the fight that ended with Milbury involved.

I guess in the end we will have to go to the video tape, which paints a different picture.

No amount of PR, however, will set right the large anti-Milbury sentiment that arose from his time on Long Island, as well as his bombastic presence on TV. It is hard to shake the past and certainly to change overall predisposed public sentiment. In the end, we are left with a scenario of a story of noble intentions from a person who is trying to save his job and the another story of someone out of control. Chances are the middle ground still won’t be that pretty for Milbury.

The fact remains that Milbury put his hands on a 12-year-old in a very hotly contested situation, adding to the emotion and causing police to investigate and charge after the fact. This is a key point and element that simply cannot be washed away by public relations.

It will be an upward climb for Milbury, especially if he looks at the ESPN fate of one Matthew Barnaby, whose DWI a few months after an alleged domestic situation ended his tenure at the sports network.

However, one blogger, who happens to be a lawyer by day and has the inside track on Massachusetts law, said Milbury might easily avoid any substantial jail time because nobody got hurt.

Read more columns by B.D. Gallof

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