At long last, after World Cup delay and offseason departures, lavish lavish summer expenditures and preseason drama, the New York Islanders get their 2016-17 season kicked off tonight at Madison Square Garden.
[Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here]
Their opponents, the Rangers, are likely to be neck and neck with them all season long and destined to not meet in the playoffs. So it goes, as long as the orange team makes it.
The Isles will have a completely new first line, a new (and improved?) “Best Fourth Line in Hockey,” a new third pairing with training camp signing Dennis Seidenberg, and an NHL debutant in Anthony Beauvillier. (Fellow rookie Matthew Barzal is a scratch.) It’s enough for the same queasiness, different look.
The only morning lineup question was Anders Lee, who took a shot off the foot in practice. But he is believed to be ready to go. If that changes, team media reports Alan Quine would skate in his place.
Andrew Ladd - John Tavares - Jason Chimera (yes, really)
Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Anders Lee - Ryan Strome - Shane Prince
Nikolai Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Jaroslav Halak is your starter, putting his unblemished record against Henrik Lundqvist on the line.
The host team has an old friend on its fourth line: Michael Grabner, one of the Rangers’ offseason additions, who now sees this rivalry from the other side.
Grabner will skate on the fourth line with Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast as the Rangers sort things out. But like the Isles, they were scrambling and IR-playing to see how to pare down for their opening night roster.
So, both teams are works in progress. They’re saying all the right things and all that, but both New York-allegiant fanbases are left to wonder with uneasiness about how it all shakes out.
None of that matters tonight though; tonight’s just about shaming a rival.
Let’s do this.