It's Game Time! Isles Open vs. Dallas
After months of summer filled with exciting playoff hockey and off-season moves, acquisitions, the draft and personnel changes, Islanders fans can rejoice with the drop of the puck tonight on Coliseum ice when they face-off against the Dallas Stars.
The schedule is already working in favor for the Isles, as the Stars are coming off a 4-3 OT win against the New Jersey Devils that went down last night. Don't expect Gordon's crew to come out taking this game for granted; this is the home opener, and Rick DiPietro will be back in net for his first opening night in two seasons.
Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais are the two healthy scratches on defense, putting to rest all the questions on who would sit. Personally, Hillen is a surprise, but this isn't something he is unaccustomed too. In the past two years Hillen has had to work his way into the line-up at the start of each season. The positive note is that once he gets playing time he usually keeps it and easily becomes one of the most reliable defenseman on the team. On a negative note, he may get a chance to play before he knows it since the injury bug has already hit this team hard...and well, the team does have Radek Martinek in their line-up. Unfortunately most will feel that it is only a matter of time before something accidental occurs and he is forced to miss playing time.
Nino Niederreiter will also get his first taste of legitimate NHL action tonight. He won't have the same hype around him that John Tavares did last year and I don't expect him to have the same start as JT did either, scoring a goal and an assist in his first NHL game. But it would be wrong to rule out that anything is possible.
The most interesting trio that will be playing together is Blake Comeau and P.A. Parenteau at the wings of Tavares. Comeau proved that he can be a legitimate power-forward, playing aggressively along the boards and finished strong by scoring goals and racking up points at the end of the season. He needs to transition that into the start of this year and maintain it consistently if he wants to remain on the top line. This is a perfect opportunity with Okposo injured. Parenteau, on the other hand, is getting a chance to prove that he can score goals in the NHL. He already has accomplished all there is to do in the AHL. Playing with Tavares gives him the opportunity to apply those skills in a big time role. It's up to him on whether or not he will be the next Jeff Tambellini or the next Matt Moulson.
One element that will be introduced tonight that many people seem to have shockingly overlooked is the duo of Trevor Gillies and Zenon Konopka playing together. That's an intimidating fourth line that will finally scare the opposition away from taking liberties with the young guys. Toughness has been missing from this team for years and was typically only inserted into the line-up, via Mitch Fritz or Joel Rechlicz, at the end of the year when playoffs were clearly out of the picture. Now the Isles are throwing the fists right up front and will have that strength working for them all year long. Here's hoping that Konopka drops someone in a fight tonight at center ice in his Islanders debut.
It's time to get the foil on and watch some Islanders hockey folks. The puck drops at 7 PM.
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