7:00 pm, PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC
TV: MSG Plus
Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, WRCN 103.9 FM
8th in Metropolitan Division*
16th in Eastern Conference*
Conacher - Tavares - Okposo
Grabovski - Nelson - Strome
Bailey - Nielsen - Kulemin
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Hickey - Hamonic
Leddy - Boychuk
Strait - Reinhart
7th in Metropolitan Division*
15th in Eastern Conference*
Tlusty - Staal - Semin
Gerbe - Rask - Lindholm
Malone - McClement - Dwyer
Terry - Nash - Brown
Faulk - Sekera
Hainsey - Liles
Gleason - Harrison
*Teams have yet to play
The New York Islanders kick off their 2014-15 season with a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the Carolina Hurricanes, beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. in Raleigh, NC.
After a disappointing 34-37-11 season in 2013-14, the Islanders revamped their lineup this offseason, with six acquisitions – and one rookie – set to play their first game in orange and blue Friday. GAME NOTES & NHL STATS
“There’s a different feeling,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “The past is the past. They’re excited. Our group is very committed in there and they know their time is now. The accountability among the guys is the greatest it’s ever been.”
The makeover starts in goal, as Jaroslav Halak is expected to make his first start for the Islanders. Halak boasts a .930 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average in six regular-season games vs. the Hurricanes, but is looking rebound from a 4-2 loss to the Canes in the preseason.
Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy represent the Islanders upgrade on defense, as the veteran defensemen were brought to Long Island in a pair of trades on Oct. 4. Boychuk and Leddy will start the season as a pairing, giving the Islanders size, experience and a championship pedigree on the back end. The added depth has already paid dividends to an Islanders blue line ravaged by injuries in training camp, as Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan and Matt Carkner all start the season on the injured reserve. Griffin Reinhart, the fourth-overall pick in 2011, made the trip with the team and could play his first NHL game Friday night.
“[It seems like] our whole back end was out,” Capuano said. “So what Garth did definitely helps our hockey club, there’s no question. We’ve built from the net out, we have a lot of character guys and leaders in [our room].”LISTEN TO HEAD COACH JACK CAPUANO
At forward, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin and Cory Conacher will make their Islanders debuts. Grabovski and Kulemin spent most of training camp and the preseason on the same line, but Capuano split up the former teammates in practice on Thursday. (Grabovski played on a line with Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, while Kulemin played with Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey.) Conacher is slated to play on the top line.
The Islanders big free-agent splashes stole most of the headlines this offseason, but the biggest addition comes from within, as captain John Tavares returns for the first time since suffering a sprained MCL at the Olympic Games in February. Tavares last played for the Islanders on Feb. 8 against the Colorado Avalanche and missed the final 22 games of the season. WATCH ISLANDERS-HURRICANES HIGHLIGHTS FROM 9/24
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while,” Tavares said. “We’re all excited about tomorrow and Saturday. We’re just excited to get the season going. We’ve put a lot of time in during the offseason. I think everyone is just focused on the moment and the opportunity we have.”
The Islanders will need a better record against the Metropolitan Division this season to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Friday presents an opportunity to start off on the right skate. After sweeping the Hurricanes 4-0-0 in the 2011-12 season, the Islanders lost six straight, but took the team’s most recent meeting, a 5-4 win on Mar. 25 in Raleigh.
Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes on Friday, according to beat writer Chip Alexander. Ward is 17-3-3 against the Islanders, but allowed three goals on nine shots in the Mar. 25 outing. Eric Staal returns as the team’s leading scorer, posting 61 points (21G, 40A) in 79 games last season. Leading goal scorer Jeff Skinner is listed as day-to-day with a concussion.