The Islanders begin the 2021 season at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. tonight, the first of eight meetings and two (the second is Saturday night) to open the season.
This will be a season like no other — shortened not by a lockout, but by a pandemic that affects the divisional alignment and schedule accordingly. The eight-team division temporarily including the Bruins and Sabres — looks something fierce, as Barry Trotz has acknowledged in preseason interviews:
“Definitely with our division you’re not going to get a night off. They’re going to be hard games.”
Trotz was not, however, going to disclose the lineup. We knew from earlier in the week that Semyon Varlamov would get the season opener tonight, but other than that, Trotz alluded to the possibility of one taxi squad-related change to what we might expect.
But the rough sketch from this week is as follows:
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — JosBailey
Ross Johnston — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Kieffer Bellows
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
The bigger thing to watch is whether the new post-Toews, post-Boychuk defensive pairings work. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock should pick up right where they left off as the top pair. After that, some adjustments:
Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene-Noah Dobson
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Excited yet? Here’s some random bits of history: