The New York Islanders are back in Brooklyn for another preseason game Monday night, this time facing the emerging rival who ousted them from last spring's playoffs. Un-televised faceoff is at 7 p.m. or thereabouts.
The two teams are at different stages of training camp: The Isles have 30 players left in camp and only one more preseason game (Sunday in D.C.) after tonight, whereas the Washington Capitals are still at 40 players and tonight is one of four remaining preseason games for them.
The Capitals lineup posted on their official site includes ex-Islander Aaron Ness, who was captain of the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Instant Isles fan favorite Tom Wilson, who may be an inadvertent reason Lubomir Visnovsky was recently in Chicago camp (and released from his PTO today) rather than returning with the Isles, is also in the lineup. The club is hoping he becomes more than just the team's fighting major leader and designated head hunter/"check finisher."
The Isles posted their lineup, and Newsday's Arthur Staple put forward the specific line combos and pairings below. The trio of Anders Lee, John Tavares and Ryan Strome sit out this one, and it's quite possible that threesome used in recent preseason matches begins the season as the top line.
But here are tonight's combos, via Staple:
#Isles lines tonight vs. WSH: Nelson-Grabovski-Okposo, Kulemin-Nielsen-Bailey, Dal Colle-Barzal-Petrov, Boulton-Cizikas-Halmo.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 28, 2015
#Isles D/G tonight vs. WSH: Hickey-Zidlicky, de Haan-Pulock, Pelech-Mayfield. Greiss/Williams in goal.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 28, 2015
Those top two forward lines look like real possibilities for the Isles' middle six entering the season, while the third line is an "all-futures" line although Kirill Petrov has a good chance at making the NHL roster.
It's famously premature to read too much into preseason lines and coach press scrums and such, but it does sound like the coaching staff is trying to gauge possible combos tonight:
"Honestly it’s a battle for some guys right now. We’re looking at a couple of different line combinations tonight to see where we are going to be at."
On defense, too, the presumptive top pairing (Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk) sits this one out. In their place is the Bridgeport-bound pairing of Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, both of whom were assigned to AHL Bridgeport over the weekend but recalled along with Mike Halmo this morning for tonight's game.
That duo was skating this morning in Bridgeport camp -- as if to simulate the real-life experience of getting the morning emergency recall to the NHL.
Next Sunday's game is on MSG+, NHL Network and Washington's Comcast sports outlet. Tonight's, you have to head to the arena to see the action.
But you can always share what you see and hear in the comment thread below.