|Should be a good|
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 the firsts to see hockey at home, so the long wait is truly almost over.
With a little bit more than a week 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 this morning, and will be evaluated for the beginning of the season. John Tavares, Ryan Strome, and Michael Grabner have all arrived today, and according to Kevin Schultz of Islanders Point-Blank, Grabner looks to be at full speed.Training camp is expected to start on Sunday, and the Islanders still have a ton of questions that need to be answered, starting with who will be on the ice for opening night.
This is a tough one. 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's my predictions for all of the lines to open 2013:
Matt Mouslon - John Tavares - Brad Boyes
Jesse Joensuu (Nino if injured) - Ryan Strome - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Michael Grabner
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Eric Boulton
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Mark Streit - Matthew Donovan
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. Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, and Michael Grabner 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.
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 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 Matt Donovan. 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. Matt Donovan will learn from Mark Streit. Donovan is an offensively-gifted defenseman, but has also shown he's solid in his own zone. Donovan will gain a lot from playing with the captain, who has a similar style of play.
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 be breaking faces and put fear into opposing forwards that come too close to our goalie.
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 form Bridgeport were in 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.
The Islanders are also expected to have an afternoon game on the 21st against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Within the next week, I will have predictions for the Islanders and their upcoming season.
Hockey's back. Let's go Islanders.
Islanders Op-Timism also has a new Twitter account, and a new Facebook Page,so feel free to follow, like, or whatever else you can do. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of your support, Islanders fans.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's Go Islanders