The NHL season is less than one week away! Are you excited, Islanders fans?
Finally, the NHL released the schedules for all 30 NHL teams, so fans can now cancel all prior plans to watch their favorite team play in months.
Although I may not be able to make it, the New York Islanders will be facing-off against the New Jersey Devils at 7 PM in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Islanders’ fans will be opening the season with two games at home. Anticipation is building.
With six days to go, the Islanders, like their fans, have to scramble for the start of the 2013 season. Majority of the Islanders’ roster has made it to Iceworks for training camp, which is expected to start on Sunday. Josh Bailey is currently injured, and Lubomir Visnovsky “missed” his flight this morning. The Islanders still have a ton of questions that need to be answered, starting with who will be on the ice for opening night.
With no preseason games, it’s going to be difficult to accurately gauge chemistry, so lines will be made on a trial-and-error basis. Obviously, Tavares and Moulson will be put together, but outside of that, not much was generated from the Islanders last season. Here are my predictions for all of the lines to open 2013:
Matt Mouslon – John Tavares – Brad Boyes
Jesse Joensuu (Nino, if Jesse is injured) – Ryan Strome – Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom – Frans Nielsen – Michael Grabner
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Eric Boulton
Travis Hamonic – Andrew MacDonald
Mark Streit – Jon Landry
Lubomir Visnovsky – Matt Carkner
The first-line is a given. The Islanders expect Brad Boyes to fill PA Parenteau’s shoes on the Islanders’ top-line. John Tavares and Matt Moulson will do their thing, and if Brad Boyes cannot keep up, he will be replaced. For the first game, Boyes will be on JT’s wing. I bet he scores one, too.
Every line after this gets a little tricky.
My second-line prediction is based off of a few things. Kyle Okposo is expected to be a top-6 forward, so he will be treated as such. He ended last season on a hot streak, so the organization hopes for Kyle to continue his goal-scoring ways. Ryan Strome should make his debut. At worst, he gets 5 games and gets sent back to the OHL for one last time. Strome is the Islanders’ future #2 centre, and the lack of depth on this team makes him the immediate #2 option. Although I would love to see Nino up on this line, I think the Islanders will try to keep him in the AHL for the rest of the season because of his success there now, and the gross mishandling of him last season. Jesse Joensuu, who is another big body, will be expected to score some goals for the Islanders, especially after his success in Finland. Of course, if he’s injured he will not be there, and then I can see the Islanders incorporating Nino in an attempt for Nino and Strome to find some real chemistry together.
The third-line is going to be a very solid two-way line. Originally, I had Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, and Michael Grabner together because they have been three go-to Islanders for big defensive situations. Nielsen has meshed well with Bailey and Grabner on separate lines. This line can be very capable on the offensive side of the puck, and should be expected to be an easy plus in the ratings. This line has the ability to do special things in all three-zones.
Unfortunately, Bailey will be missing the start of the season with a knee injury. David Ullstrom, who saw 29 games in the NHL last season, seems to be the best fit for his replacement. With 26 games with Bridgeport under his belt for 2012-13, Ullstrom is in game-shape and ready to play. In those 26 games, Ullstrom has been plenty productive (5-14-19), so Ullstrom should definitely get a look.
The fourth-line is a bit more predictable. Casey Cizikas is an excellent two-way centre, and will provide the offense and enthusiasm that Marty Reasoner could not. Matt Martin will do Matt Martin things, and be able to score a few for himself (I still see him as a capable 10-15 goal-scorer). Eric Boulton will not be in the line-up every night, but he will be on opening night against his former team. Boulton will drop the gloves.
On defense, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald should be our first pairing. They have been our top defensive-line over the past two seasons. They are not a liability on defense, and can both move the puck. Travis Hamonic was the only Islanders defenseman to have a plus rating (+6).
Mark Streit is paired with Jon Landry. Streit has been in past Norris Trophy discussion. His offensive upside is 50-60 points, and he is more than capable in the defensive zone. Admittedly, he looked bad at times last season, but he looked much better towards the end of the season. Landry has been a journey-man, and finally made it to the AHL at the age of 29. Although Landry has been a defensive liability at times in Bridgeport, Landry is a big body, and can play well on the power-play. Over the summer, I saw Landry as a dark-horse candidate for the job, and it appears he will get a look.
Lubmoir Visnovsky is paired with Matt Carkner. Visnovsky has shown no interest of playing on the Island, but will show up, and will be thrown on the bottom pairing. Matt Carkner will defend the crease. Not much should be expected on the offensive side of the puck, but on the back-end, Carkner’s even rating in 162 games has to count for something. At least we know there will be no liberties taken in front of our net when Carks is on the ice.
Our goalie situation remains the same. Evgeni Nabokov has not played during the break. Rick DiPietro‘s here for now. Let’s see how long that lasts. Wouldn’t surprise me if both kids from Bridgeport were up in the NHL by the season’s end.
Those are my predictions for January 19th.
Other story-lines include KHL holdouts (Visnovsky vs.Kovalchuck), the Eastern Conference Champions playing without Zach Parise, Eric Boulton returning against his former team, and the NHL returning from the lockout.
Within the next week, I will have predictions for the Islanders and their upcoming season.
Hockey’s back. Let’s go Islanders.
Thanks for reading! What are your lines for opening night?
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants