"It's always important to get off to a good start," Islanders head coach Steve Stirling said after practice today. "But, yes, it would be especially helpful to do it this year. Lots of new players, some new systems. You'd like to see confidence grow and then run with it."
It begins Wednesday night in Buffalo when the Islanders take on a young, energetic and skilled Sabres team. The game features so many storylines, one wouldn't know where to begin.
There's Miroslav Satan and Alexei Zhitnik returning to Buffalo. There's new captain Alexei Yashin, playing with an elite wing in his prime in Satan for the first time in his Islanders career. There's the debut of promising rookie Robert Nilsson, expected to be on the left of Yashin and Satan. How about the new-look blue line, also including veterans Brent Sopel and Brad Lukowich? And did we mention two other fascinating home-grown Islanders rookies, Petteri Nokelainen and Chris Campoli?
And to make it even better, the Yankees game doesn't start until 10:00 EST. So even if the Islanders-Sabres game goes to a shoot out, you'll be able to catch the entire game on MSG Network or Bloomberg 1130 and still have time to grab a second pizza for the baseball playoffs.
Here are your Islanders game notes, produced by Islanders media relations coordinator Jim Morlock:
A NEW SEASON BEGINS
The Islanders will open their 33rd season in the National Hockey League tonight when they visit the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m. at the HSBC Arena. Tonight's game is the first of four meetings between the Islanders and Sabres and the first of two in Buffalo. The Islanders will visit Buffalo again on Monday, December (7 p.m.), while the Sabres will visit the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, October 29 (7 p.m.) and Wednesday, November 23 (7 p.m.).
Tonight will mark the 29th time in team history that the Islanders will start the season on the road. The Islanders have a lifetime record of 8-16-8 in season openers, including a 6-14-8 mark on the road. Tonight will be the second time in the last three years that the Islanders have opened the season in Buffalo and it will also mark the sixth consecutive season that they have started the season on the road. The Islanders opened the 2002-03 campaign with a 5-1 loss (October 10, 2002) to the Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Tonight's game also marks the fourth time in team history that the Islanders will start the season in Buffalo. The Isles are winless in three tries (0-2-1) against the Sabres in the first game of the season in Buffalo. The Islanders lost 3-2 to the Sabres to start the 1977 season (October 13) and the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the first game of the 1978-79 (October 12) campaign.
SLOW OUT OF THE GATE
In the last nine seasons (1995-96 to 2003-04), the Islanders are 1-5-3 in season openers and have been outscored, 34-19. In the last two season openers, the Islanders have been outscored, 11-2, in their losses to Washington and Buffalo. The Islanders have won just twice in the season opener in the last ten years, winning 3-2 over Tampa Bay (October 5, 2001) and 2-1 over Florida (January 21, 1994).
OPENING NIGHT NOTES
*The Islanders have been outscored, 103-83, in season openers, including a 93-71 edge on the road.
*The Islanders have started the season at home just four times in team history (1972, 1980, 1994 and 1998) and split the four games.
*The opponent the Islanders have opened the season against the most in team history is Los Angeles (five times), followed by Buffalo (four times, including tonight's game), Boston (three times) and Tampa Bay (three times). The Islanders are 3-2 against the Kings in season openers, 0-2-1 against the Sabres, 2-0-1 against the Bruins and 1-1-1 against the Lightning.
* The Islanders have been shut out only once on opening night (1-0 by Los Angeles, October 4, 1996) and posted the only shut out in team history on opening night when they blanked the Flyers, 3-0, on October 7, 1976.
*Tonight will be the sixth time in team history that the Islanders have started the season on October 5. The Islanders are 2-3 when starting the season on fifth day of October.
*The largest margin of victory on opening night for New York is three, which has occurred four times in team history. The last time the Islanders won by three goals was on October 4, 1990, when they defeated Los Angeles, 4-1.
*The worst loss in team history on opening night occurred two years ago, when the Isles lost to Washington, 6-1.
*The Islanders have won back-to-back season openers just once in team history (1980 and 1981). The Islanders defeated Boston, 5-2, at the Nassau Coliseum on October 11, 1980 and posted a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on October 7, 1981.
* The last time the Islanders were shut out in the first game of the season was during the 19996-97 season, when the Islanders lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings at the Great Western Forum. The Islanders were shut out one other time in the season opener, as Philadelphia blanked the Isles, 3-0, on October 7, 1976.
The Islanders have a lifetime regular-season record of 47-56-18-1 against the Buffalo Sabres. At home, the Islanders have a lifetime record of 27-25-9-0, while in 61 trips to Western New York, they have a record of 20-31-9-1, including a 6-7-2-1 record against the Sabres at HSBC Arena. In 2003-04, the Islanders won all four meetings against the Sabres and have won the last six meetings dating back to the 2002-03 season, including the last three on the road. The last time the Islanders lost to Buffalo, was in the 2002 season opener (5-1).
The Islanders closed out their preseason schedule with a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Rangers last Thursday at Madison Square Garden. With the win, the Islanders snapped a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and finished the preseason with a 3-3-1 record. Alexei Yashin and Miroslav Satan were tied for the team lead in scoring with four points each. Yashin recorded three goals and one assist in five games, while Satan collected four assists in five games. Goaltender Garth Snow posted a 1-1-1 record, along with a 1.40 goals against average and a .952 save percentage in four games.
September 7 Islanders re-sign goaltender Rick DiPietro to a one-year contract.
September 14 Islanders re-sign forward Mark Parrish.
September 25 The Islanders returned Ryan O'Marra and Blake Comeau to their respective Canadian junior clubs while assigning forwards Luciano Aquino and Masi Marjamaki, defensemen Vince Macri, Jody Robinson and Paul Flache and goaltender Chris Madden to Bridgeport.
September 26 - The Islanders returned defenseman Dustin Kohn (Calgary WHL) and forward Ryan O'Marra (Erie OHL) to their respective juniors clubs and assigned forwards Wyatt Smith, Travis Brigley, Matt Koalska, Steve Regier, David Masse, Rob Collins, Kevin Colley, Cole Jarrett and Jeremy Colliton; defensemen Joel Bouchard, Allan Rourke, Ryan Caldwell; and goaltenders Frederic Cloutier and Wade Dubielewicz to Bridgeport (AHL).
September 30 The Islanders assigned defenseman Bruno Gervais and forward Justin Papineau to Bridgeport (AHL).
October 3 The Islanders assigned forward Sean Bergenheim to Bridgeport (AHL).
Thursday, October 6, Nassau Coliseum (10:30 AM).
Friday, October 7, Nassau Coliseum (10 AM).
Saturday, October 8, Game-day skate at Nassau Coliseum (10:15 AM)
Sunday, October 9, Islanders Iceworks, Syosset (10 AM)
Monday, October 10, Nassau Coliseum (9:15 AM)
Tuesday, October 11, Nassau Coliseum, TBD
Wednesday, October 12, Nassau Coliseum (10:30 AM)
Thursday, October 13, Game-day skate at MCI Center, Washington, DC (11:30 AM)
Friday, October 14, Place and Time, TBA
Saturday, October 15, Game-day skate at Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pa. (11:30 AM)
Saturday, October 8 vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Monday, October 10 vs. Florida, 1 p.m.
Wednesday, October 12 at Washington, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 15 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, October 19 at New York Rangers, 7 p.m.
Thursday, October 20 vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 22 at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 25 vs. Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Thursday, October 27 at New York Rangers, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 29 vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Arron Asham (rib strain) is listed as day-to-day.
The Islanders currently have 22 players on the roster, two goaltenders, seven defensemen and 13 forwards. The oldest player on the team is Alexei Zhitnik (32), while the youngest is Petteri Nokelainen (19).
Of the 22 players on the roster, three players were selected by the Islanders in the first round, including goaltender Rick DiPietro who was taken first overall in the 2000 Entry Draft. The two other players that were selected by the Islanders in the first round are forwards Robert Nilsson (15th overall in 2003) and Petteri Nolelainen (16th overall in 2004).
Along with DiPietro, the Islanders have one other player - Alexei Yashin - who was taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. Yashin, who was taken first overall by Ottawa in the 1992 Entry Draft, was acquired by the Islanders in exchange for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the Islanders' 2001 first-round pick (Ottawa selected Jason Spezza) on June 23, 2001.
HOW THE ISLANDERS WERE BULIT
Of the 22 players on the Islanders' opening night roster, seven players were drafted by the Islanders, (three first-round picks, one third-round pick, one seventh-round pick, one eighth round-pick and one ninth-round pick), while ten were acquired via trade and five were signed as free agents.
ROSTER BREAKDOWN BY COUNTRY:
The Islanders have several new faces on the roster, most notably forwards Robert Nilsson, Miroslav Satan and Mike York and defensemen Brad Lukowich, Brent Sopel and Alexei Zhitnik.
Nilsson, the son of former NHL player Kent Nilsson, is regarded as one of the top European forward prospects in his draft class. In 2002-03, he broke Swedish league records set by Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund by recording 21 points (8+13) in 41 games as a 17-year old. Last season, Nilsson represented Sweden for the second consecutive year at the 2005 World Junior Championships.
The Islanders signed one of the NHL's most prolific goal scorers in free agent in Satan during the off-season. In the past six seasons, he has scored 194 goals, tied for ninth among all NHL players. Satan, a two-time All-Star (2000, 2002), has played on the International stage, representing Slovakia at the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup of Hockey during his nine-year career.
A former New York Ranger, York was acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Islander captain Michael Peca on August 3. He played three seasons with the Rangers (1999-2002) before being traded to the Oilers at the trading deadline in 2002. In 2003-04, York ranked tied for second on the Oilers with a plus-18 rating and posted 42 points (16+26), despite playing only 61 games.
A two-time All-Star (1999, 2002), Zhitnik signed with the Islanders as a free agent on August 2 after playing nine-plus seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. In 882 career games with Los Angeles and the Sabres, he has recorded 396 points (81+315) and 1,030 penalty minutes. In 2003-04, he led Buffalo in ice time, averaging 25:01 minutes per game.
Originally selected by the Islanders in the fourth round of the 1994 Entry Draft, Lukowich will make his debut for the Isles in 2005-06. A member of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, he recorded 19 points (5+14) in 79 regular-season games and registered a plus-29 rating (T-7TH). During his eight-year career with Dallas and Tampa Bay, Lukowich has amassed 63 points and a plus-47 rating in 373 career games. He also won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999.
Sopel had a career year with Vancouver in 2003-04, setting career-highs for goals (10), assists (32) and points (42) in a season. He has increased his offensive output in each of the last three seasons with the Canucks, recording 27 points in 2001-02, 37 in 2002-03 and 42 in 2003-04. He was acquired by the Islanders for a conditional draft pick in the 2006 Entry Draft.
SATAN AND ZHITNIK TO MAKE THEIR NYI DEBUT AGAINST THEIR FORMER CLUB
Along with tonight being the first game of the 2005-06 season, another storyline for the game is the return of former Sabres Miroslav Satan and Alexei Zhitnik. Both will be playing in their first game as New York Islanders tonight when they play against their former team, the Buffalo Sabres.
Selected by the Edmonton Oilers in fifth round (111th overall) of the 1993 Entry Draft, Satan was traded to Buffalo in exchange for Barrie Moore and Craig Millar on March 18, 1997. In 578 games with the Sabres (1996-97 to 2003-04), he recorded 456 points (224+232). Satan also recorded 35 points (14+21) in 44 playoff games with the Sabres. He was signed by the Islanders as a free agent on August 3.
A veteran of 882 NHL games, Zhitnik was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round (81st overall) of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to Buffalo along with Robb Stauber, Charlie Huddy and a fifth round draft pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Grant Fuhr, Philippe Boucher and Denis Tsygurov on . Zhitnik was signed by the Islanders as a free agent on August 2. In 712 games with the Sabres (1994-95 to 2003-04), he registered 289 points (55+234) and 730 penalty minutes.
Asham 12 games to 300
Blake 6 assists to 100
DiPietro 20 games to 100
Kvasha 15 points to 200
Lukowich 27 games to 400
Sopel 7 assists to 100
Yashin 9 goals to 300, 26 assists to 400
York 2 goals to 100, 26 games to 400
Zhitnik 4 points to 400