The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game One on Wednesday at NYCB Live - Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m. Buy tickets. Watch on MSG+, MSG GO, NBCSN, CBC, TVA2 or NHL.TV. Listen live on 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM LI News or online at radio.com/islanders. Read the game preview. Check the game notes.
Nothing official from Head Coach Barry Trotz. Robin Lehner did not take part in the team's optional morning skate, suggesting he'll start game one against the Penguins.
Michael Dal Colle stayed on for extra work after the morning skate, meaning he'll likely be scratched in favor of Tom Kuhnhackl.
Video: This Is What We Play For
KUHNHACKL VS DAL COLLE:
Trotz elaborated on what Kuhnhackl and Dal Colle each bring to the Islanders lineup. Trotz said Kuhnhackl, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, brings experience and kills penalties, while Dal Colle adds size and a little more offense.
"We weighed it out and it's close," Trotz said of the decision. "We have a plan going into it a certain way and we have a pretty good option coming at the other side of it."
ISLES EXCITED TO GET STARTED:
Anders Lee said the anticipation ahead of Wednesday's game was akin to Christmas Eve. After seven months, 82 games and three days of patiently waiting, the Isles are ready to drop the puck on the postseason.
"This is what you play for as a player and as a group you strive to win the Stanley Cup," Brock Nelson said. "This is just start of the journey and you want to enjoy it."
Trotz told his players to have fun and enjoy the moment. Asked if he takes his own advice, the coach said he's been loose all morning.
"I've learned to just have fun with the playoffs," Trotz said. "Not being wound up doesn't mean you're not serious about the game or anything. You're enjoying it. This is a great time of the year to be a part of things. It's a great part of the year to enjoy. It's not easy... In this game it's one of the tougher things to do is have fun when it's really hard. The rewards are incredible."
That's coming from a coach with a Stanley Cup ring and years of playoff experience. For the players like Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews, the unknown is just as exciting.
"You can just tell even by listening to the announcers how much fun it is, how intense it is and by looking at the players and seeing how they attack each moment of the game," Toews said. "It's just really cool to see. It'll be fun to have those moments for myself."
Read more about Barzal, Beauvillier and Toews' on what they are expecting from their first playoff experiences.
ISLES FOCUSING ON RESETTING SPECIAL TEAMS:
After finishing with the 29th- ranked power play during the regular season, the Islanders are looking at the playoffs as a reset.
"It's a fresh start so to speak. You get to reset," Brock Nelson said. "When you get those opportunities, you want to capitalize and make the most of it. Sometimes you won't score, but you want to generate momentum and chances. You just want to be ready when that time comes."
The Islanders power play went 2-for-12 in the final five games of the regular season, and 1-for-12 in four meetings against the Penguins.
"Through the 82-game stretch, it didn't go as well as we all wanted to, if we get hot now, it doesn't really matter," captain Anders Lee said.
The Isles are 24-3-2 when they score at least one power play goal and 24-24-5 when they do not. The Isles are 18-15-5 when they allow at least one power play goal and 30-12-2 when they do not.
Given the potency of Pittsburgh's power play, the New York Islanders are focusing on staying out of the box. The Penguins power play finished the season fifth overall, converting at a 24.6% clip. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang making up the first unit, the Islanders would rather not give them a chance to operate.
"Obviously a lethal group up there up front, a couple guys on the back end that generate a lot of offense," Brock Nelson said. "We want to stay five on five, that's been one of our main focuses each and every game throughout the year. Playing five on five is one of our strengths."
The Penguins have allowed the most shorthanded goals (15) in the NHL, but still, there's more upside in playing at even strength. The Islanders penalty kill was tied for 16th in the NHL this season, killing at a 79.9% clip.
DUMOULIN, ASTON-REESE ARE GAME-TIME DECISIONS:
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forward Zach Aston-Reese participated in practice on Tuesday and are reported to be game-time decisions by Pens head coach Mike Sullivan. Dumoulin has been sidelined for the last three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Aston-Reese has missed 13 games from Jan. 11-Feb. 11 with a lower-body injury.
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornist
Dominik Simon - Nick Bjugstad - Phil Kessel
Teddy Blueger - Matt Cullen - Garrett Wilson
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Jack Johnson - Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson - Erik Gudbranson