Early wakeup call. - Bruce Bennett
The first afternoon game of the season, because this country used to be really backward and courageous people died trying to change it.
(For international visitors: It's an early start because today is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday. This place used to -- well, all cultures have their scary pasts and issues with "otherness" but ours was pretty bad and lasted a really long time and required some pretty bold movements to get past it.)
If you slept through the lockout -- bless you -- the Lightning are still coached by the line-shaking Guy Boucher, who almost ruined hockey or something because Patrick Roy said so.
After a stunning run to the conference finals in his debut year, Boucher's squad regressed in 2011-12 and missed the playoffs by eight points. A huge culprit was their blueline; another was their sieve-tending. Alas, Dwayne Roloson was not brought back and Sebastian Caron was smuggled into the handsome draft package the Lightning sent to Nashville to import Nordic giant Anders Lindback.
In minor moves up front, the Lightning also traded for B.J. Crombeen (a bit of an agitator) and Benoit Pouliot, but the heavy lifting still falls into the capable hands of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier. Their version of Nino Niederreiter, top 2010 pick Brett Connolly is spending this season in the AHL and has put up similar numbers (34 points on 15 goals).
Instead of Connolly, the Lightning promoted Cory Conacher from their affiliate in Syracuse. (That link also explains why Pouliot wears #67: He was a Lemieux and Jagr fan.) Conacher describes his debut and first NHL goal here.
If history is any guide between these two teams, look for transition opportunities creating a large chunk of the scoring chances. Not that there will be a lot -- the Lightning often play Boucher's modified trap and the Isles do not often mount sustained pressure -- but when it happens, it tends to happen in waves of breakdowns.
That said, the Lightning won their opener Saturday 6-3 at home over the Capitals. Maybe the kids in attendance get a good show on Martin Luther King Jr. afternoon.
Coach Jack Capuano hopes to be back from his kidney stone surgery, but we'll see this morning. Josh Bailey and Jesse Joensuu are still out; the lineup questions circle around the many defensemen (will Thomas Hickey or Radek Martinek appear?) and the forwards (Casey Cizikas?).
After this one, the Islanders go on their first road trip of the season, an extensive one with multiple border crossings and back-to-back games in Toronto and Boston.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread here. And come back 'round game time for the game thread.