Rick DiPietro's swollen knee and Dwayne Roloson's lackluster play of late gave the New York Islanders no choice but to call up Nathan Lawson from Bridgeport to start Saturday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
It was Lawson's first opportunity to play in the NHL and the results were a mixed bag. He made 32 saves, but allowed Phoenix to tie the game with 1:28 left in regulation on a goal by Martin Hanzal. After a scoreless overtime period, Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Kyle Turris notched goals for the Coyotes to hand the Islanders their third loss of the season by way of shootout.
There are three full months of hockey left in the season, but making a run at the playoffs is a mere pipe dream after the 6-18-6 start has the squad 20 points off the pace of the No. 8 seed in the conference.
Catching up to teams in the lower tier of the postseason race such as the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning appears to be a stretch at this point, so the Islanders had nothing to lose by giving Lawson the chance to prove that he can be an asset.
At 27 years old, he is a seasoned athlete and posted a winning record in 76 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In his four-year career in the AHL, Lawson posted a 37-29-7 record.
Immediately following the loss, he smashed his stick in half against the crossbar out of frustration. "I am obviously very upset about the shootout," Lawson said. "There is no excuse and I need to be better."
The Islanders need a player that displays raw emotion and the will to win under tough circumstances. Lawson showed a competitive spirit and sense of urgency that has the potential to change the dynamic of the team.