Game Preview: Islanders Begin the Season in Carolina

FINALLY.

The New York Islanders begin their 2014-15 season tonight against their Metropolitan Division rival, Carolina Hurricanes, in the first of a back to back home-and-home.  Tonight’s contest ends the 6 month slumber for Islander fans and begins the 43rd, and final, season of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  But tonight isn’t about that.  Tonight is about the present and the commencement of New York Islanders quest for a 5th Stanley Cup Championship.

The Islanders and Hurricanes have the stage to themselves tonight with no other games on the docket as they are the last of the 30 NHL teams to play after an exciting couple of nights around the league.  This matchup is the tale of two franchises going in two completely different directions. 

After hoisting Lord Stanley in 2006, the Hurricanes have been on the decline.  The goaltending has been inconsistent, their high paid free agents haven’t panned out, and the injury bug has ravaged the locker room year in and year out.  The Hurricanes seemed poised for yet another stinker of a season, but being bad this season will be tolerated with the Connor McDavid light at the end of the tunnel. (If you don’t believe me that losing this year will be tolerated please remember the 2008-09 Islanders season)

Tonight begins an era for the Islanders where they are set to win now; it is no longer a rebuilding period.  Garth Snow and company proved this over the summer by bringing in the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Chad “I’m the goalie not Ochocinco” Johnson, Mikhail Grabovski, and Nikolai Kulemin.  Even after all of these moves Snow was still criticized by many, myself included, for not suring up the defensive unit but this past weekend he silenced all of the critics with the trades for Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy.  These additions finally make the Isles blue line a positive rather than a negative for the first time in years.

With all of this said the Islanders must put it all together tonight against the sputtering Hurricanes.  Cam Ward is in net for the home team against Jaroslav Halak and the visiting Islanders.  Ward has not been the same guy from the 2005-06 season recently and the Islanders strong offense should be able to penetrate the weak and inexperienced Carolina defense.  Halak looks to start off his career with his new franchise on the right foot.

Carolina will be without Jordan Staal who suffered a broken leg and Jeff Skinner after sustaining a concussion in their last preseason game.  The Islanders will be without Lubomir Visnovsky (upper-body), Matt Carkner (upper-body), Calvin de Haan (upper-body), and Michael Grabner who just had sports hernia surgery and will miss the next 4-6 weeks as a result.

The puck is set to drop at 7:00pmEST at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.  It can be seen on MSG+ and heard on WRHU88.7FM/WRCN103.9FM.

Islanders 3(well 4) Keys to the Game:

  1. Cory Conacher, plain and simple.  He must make the top line better than it already is and he has the skill to do it.
  2. Defensive continuity.  The new additions must strut their stuff and prove to the fan base that they are worth it
  3. Jaroslav Halak.  The Islanders finally have a #1 goalie and he will prove why Garth gave him a long term deal tonight.
  4. Because this is opening night I wanted to give you another key to the game that will be essential to the beginning of the season, which is Jack Capuano.  Cappy has been given the talent and now it’s his job to put them in the best position to succeed.  After the “Summer of Garth” seems to be a success, it’s time for the coach to back up his front office.  If he doesn’t he should get the quick ax.

 

Projected Lineup (According to Dailyfaceoff.com):

89 Conacher-91 Tavares(C)-21 Okposo(A)

29 Nelson-84 Grabovsky-18 Strome

12 Bailey-51 Nielsen(A)-86 Kulemin

17 Martin-53 Cizikas-15 Clutterbuck

3 Hamonic-14 Hickey

2 Leddy-55 Boychuck

8 Reinhart-37 Strait

41 Halak

30 Johnson

 

-Chad DeCarlo

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