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Game Time: Barzal debuts as Islanders visit Washington for Capitals home opener

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The “other” 2015 first-rounder gets his first chance to show he belongs.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Dude, outta my way.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders are in Washington for the Capitals’ home opener tonight, a tough matchup before they have their own home opener tomorrow night against the Ducks.

Aside from trying to avoid an 0-2 start, tonight is very much about getting a four-line performance after the John Tavares and Casey Cizikas lines were the only trios to generate much in the season-opening loss at the Garden.

Part of that equation is the NHL debut of Mathew Barzal, who brings immense offensive skills and a franchise determination that he make it as a center. But that means moving either Brock Nelson or Ryan Strome back to the wing; tonight that falls to Strome, whose line was largely absent in the opener. Strome slides to Barzal’s right side with Anders Lee on their left.

It should be a tough matchup for the rookie against a Capitals team that will likely look to pounce on the Isles’ middle six.

It’s also the official return to Washington of Jason Chimera, though he was there at the beginning of the week as the Isles closed the preseason with a stinker. Chimera was his usual humorous self:

More seriously, Chimera expressed the already felt urgency:

"But this will be businesslike, we need a win there badly. It's an important game for us so it'll be all business when we get there."

D.C.

For their season opener, an overtime loss, the Capitals had the indignity of being guests and witnesses to the Penguins home opener and Cup banner-raising, which came at their expense after losing to the Pens in the playoffs. (Here’s Burnside on that banner-watching experience, also hilariously calling Phil Bourque a defenseman.) I prefer to acknowledge that nothing of the sort happened last spring.

Among the additions to the Capitals this year is Lars Eller, a Danish center once traded for Jaroslav Halak (who himself was once a Capital before...okay, that’s a story for another day) and who always seemed to be undervalued by the Canadiens.

Eller should prove a nice pickup and incremental upgrade for the Caps, even if Chimera is, ahem, first-line wing quality now.

How to Watch/Listen

This one starts at 7 p.m. EDT, though expect a little delay for President’s Trophy/Metro banners and general pomp.

TV: MSG+ | Radio: WMCA 570 AM, 88.7 FM WRHU, WRCN LI News 103.9 FM

If you’re out of market, most InDemand providers are running free previews — complete with YOU’RE WATCHING A FREE PREVIEW tickers across the screen even if you’ve, well, paid — of NHL Center Ice.

D.C. Views: Check out Japers’ Rink for links and views from the Caps fan.

FIG Picks: Know who’s scoring the first Islanders goal? Leave it here.