New York Islanders hockey is back, and today’s afternoon game could be the start of a long, fascinating journey, or the first glimpse of something that is here and gone by Tuesday.
The Islanders had an unblemished record against the Florida Panthers this season, but when the pandemic suspended — sorry, “paused” — the season, the teams were trending in opposite directions: The Islanders on a skid, the Panthers finally getting things together.
Of course, each team’s lone exhibition game was the inverse, with the Islanders in disciplined lead-preserving smothering of the Rangers (who lost Game 1 vs. the Hurricanes today), and the Panthers getting trounced by Eastern bye team the Lightning.
Without morning skates and such, there isn’t much intel on what to expect today, but Barry Trotz is likely to go with ol’ reliable Default Mode:
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Tom Kuhnhackl — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Derick Brassard
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy — Johnny Boychuk
That would mean old Kuhnhackl getting the nod over Ross Johnston and veterans like Uncle Leo and Andrew Ladd.
The Panthers? NHL.com has a projected lineup for them too (though our Litter Box Cats friends were hoping for something different):
Frank Vatrano — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov
Jonathan Huberdeau — Erik Haula — Mike Hoffman
Dryden Hunt/Dominic Toninato(?) — Brian Boyle — Brett Connolly
Colton Sceviour — Noel Acciari — Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar — Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman — Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle — Mike Matheson
There was a late update that Lucas Wallmark was not on the ice, so Hunt or Toninato may take his place.
We shall see. Today’s Game 1 at 4 p.m. EDT is on each team’s local cable outlet, plus nationally on NBC Sports (U.S.) and TVA and Sportsnet in Canada.