New York Islanders: Has Al 'The Monster' Montoya Awakened?

Christopher BeniniContributor IJanuary 17, 2012

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 08:  Al Montoya #35 of the New York Islanders skates against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 8, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders announced that they will be returning goaltender Kevin Poulin back to their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, after a 3-1 loss on Monday.

In all likelihood, this means that Al "The Monster" Montoya is ready to return after missing approximately four weeks with a concussion. Montoya has not played since December 20, when the Islanders defeated the Jets in Winnipeg, 3-2.

Montoya was 6-5-3 with a with a .917 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average.

Head coach Jack Capuano will have a tough decision going forward. Montoya may eventually earn the majority of the starts, but with Evgeni Nabokov playing so well of late, he can afford to ease Montoya in, rather than rushing him back.

With Rick DiPietro out of the picture for what appears to be the remainder of the season, the Isles can run a two netminder rotation, swapping Nabokov and Montoya back and forth.

What can we expect out of both goalies down the stretch?

The first thing that comes to mind is more consistent play. As long as Capuano manages the situation right and doesn't overuse either, he should be able to use both goalies equally, ensuring they both remain fresh and ready when called upon.

Obviously, the Islanders want to win games. However, there are a couple of other things the Islanders would like to accomplish by this goalie timeshare that are fairly obvious.

First off, they'll need to remain constant with their goal from the beginning of the season; that is to play Nabokov enough to showcase him so they are able to trade him at the trade deadline.

After a slow start, Nabokov has played excellent in the months of December and January and has brought his trade value up a little bit. It is unclear whether the Islanders will get something worthwhile for him, but it's highly unlikely he is the goalie of the future for the Islanders. So they would like to capitalize and get something in return via trade.

While they would love to see Nabokov get the majority of the starts to boost his trade value, they'll also need to see what they have in Montoya.

Montoya's contract expires after this season, and the Islanders need to see if Montoya is really a goalie they can trust for the future. All indications show that he can be, but the Islanders would like to see if—or how—this concussion affected him. I expect him to come back, probably be a little rusty at first, and eventually continue his solid goaltending that we saw in the beginning of the season.

Although Islander fans are itching for a Montoya comeback, It is undetermined when Montoya's next start will be. Nabokov will likely start Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals after Poulin played on Monday.