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New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes: Opening Night Lines, Defense Pairings

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The lines, the pairings, the juggling of all these centers.

Pokka? Hardly knew ya.
Pokka? Hardly knew ya.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders open 2014-15 after 28 other teams' seasons have already begun. The Islanders are in Raleigh tonight for the first half of a back-to-back home-and-home with the Carolina Hurricanes, who also open their season.

The return leg is Saturday night's home opener at Nassau [gloriously usponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

If you're just catching up in time for the season and missed training camp news, here are the expected lines for the opener:

Cory Conacher - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Mikhail Grabovski - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Colin McDonald and Eric Boulton are the expected forward scratches. Nelson was good enough that they didn't want to move him from the pivot; he will start on a line with two other centers who can play wing. Meanwhile, Nielsen combines with Bailey and Kulemin for what should be an overly coscientious defensive line.

Speedy penalty killing winger MIchael Grabner is on IR after hernia surgery. Anders Lee, who finished last season with the big club, was the last cut of training camp and will start at AHL Bridgeport.

On defense, expect these pairings based on practice and comments this week:

Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Brian Strait - Griffin Reinhart

Matt Donovan is the expected scratch on defense. That means Reinhart, the fourth overall pick two years ago, will make his NHL debut.

Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan and Matt Carkner are all on IR with various short-term injuries.

In goal, Jaroslav Halak will start Friday night in Raleigh; hopefully prudence rules and Chad Johnson gets the other half of the back-to-back.

The Hurricanes

On the other side, Cam Ward survived a summer of trade rumors and gets the opening night start in a bid to restore his place with the only NHL team he's ever known.

A weakened team is already missing Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner to start the season. Canes Country has some of their newcomers:

Making their Hurricanes debuts are Brad Malone (COL) and Jay McClement (TOR) who were acquired in free agency. Tim Gleason makes his return after being traded to the Maple Leafs mid-way through last season. With their families watching in the stands, Patrick Brown (free agency, Boston College) and Victor Rask (2011 draft, Checkers) will make their NHL debuts.

Check the Canes Country gameday preview and links for much more on what's happening down yonder.