It was not a surprise that Tuesday night’s game at the Nassau Coliseum had an instance of hostility and oddness. Nor was it a shock that Sean Avery was involved.
What was unusual was the lack of communication by referees Dan O’Rourke or Chris Rooney after Avery was sent to the Rangers dressing room with 56 seconds remaining in the first period following a collision with Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau. Avery and Mottau exchanged words after the hit, but linesmen Greg Devorski and Brian Murphy interceded before a fight could occur. Both Avery and Mottau were assessed two minute minors for unsportsmanlike conduct. Mottau finished the period in the Islanders penalty box.
“I think [the media] should start calling and asking [the NHL] and then you can send me an explanation,” Avery said when asked by Metro if he had received an explanation from O’Rourke or Rooney as to why he was sent off instead of finishing the period in the box.
“They shouldn’t have called either one a penalty,” John Tortorella added. “Let them play. That’s what I thought. I looked at the tape … it’s not worth discussing. They should have let them play. They shouldn’t have called a penalty on either one of them.”
The two fought when their roughing penalties expired 69 seconds into the second period. It was Mottau’s first fight since Oct. 22, 2009 — a gap of 754 days — when the then-New Jersey Devil fought Avery.
The Avery-Mottau bout was the first of two fights on the night. Brandon Prust fought Matt Martin at 2:54 of the second in response to a hard Martin check and subsequent crosscheck to Steve Eminger.
Capuano changes lineup
Following Sunday’s loss in Vancouver, Jack Capuano vowed “the lineup is going to have to change” if the Islanders could not “find the will to compete every single night.”
Capuano did not wait another game before making personnel changes as Mark Eaton, Kyle Okposo and Rick DiPietro were scratched. Eaton had played in every Islanders game this season prior to last night, and the Islanders rotate playing time with three goaltenders.
The decision to sit Okposo is interesting. The Islanders view Okposo as the power forward to complement the skill of John Tavares, yet he had not scored a goal this season and was minus-seven with six penalty minutes.
Goaltending controversy? What goaltending controversy?
Okay, maybe not.
The Islanders, who are attempting to find playing time for Evgeni Nabokov, Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro at the NHL level, announced Tuesday afternoon that Mikko Koskinen was shipped to KalPa of the Finnish Elite League. Koskinen had been splitting time at AHL Bridgeport with Anders Nilsson (5-2-0, 2.86, .908 in seven games) and Kevin Poulin (3-3-0, 4.06, .874 in six games). He was 0-2-0 with a 2.82 goals against average and .909 save percentage in three games.
Niederreiter gets on ice
Nino Niederreiter made his 2011-12 season debut last night. Niederreiter, the fifth-overall pick in the 2010 draft, had missed the Islanders’ first 14 games of the season as he rehabbed an injured groin. Niederreiter, who was called up from AHL Bridgeport on Monday, was plus-four with three goals and an assist in six games with the Sound Tigers.
He finished with a shot on goal in 11:17 of ice time.
» Ryan Callahan played in his 300th NHL game last night.
» The Islanders entered last night’s game with a 4-3-1 record at the Coliseum. The record is 12th in the Eastern Conference and ranks 22nd in the NHL. However, with four of their remaining seven games in November at the Coliseum, this stretch could be an opportunity for the Islanders to begin to develop a home-ice advantage and get out of the bottom four of the Eastern Conference.
Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.