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The Skinny: Opening Night

by Eric Hornick / New York Islanders

The Skinny returns all season long beginning Friday. Here is some Opening Night Skinny to get you started.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10th—ISLANDERS AT CAROLINA 7:00PM

[MSG+ (Islanders pre-game at 6:30pm), 88.7 WRHU-FM, 103.9 WRCN]

The Islanders begin their 43rd NHL season when they visit Carolina. It’s the only NHL game scheduled on Friday; all of the other 28 teams open either Wednesday or Thursday.

It's the first of a season-opening home and home series, and the first of four meetings this season with Carolina and their rookie head coach Bill Peters. The Canes won last season's series 3 games to 1 (and 6 points to 2), with Carolina winning the first three before the Isles won in Raleigh by grabbing a 4-0 lead in the game’s first 11 minutes.

It’s the second straight season that the Isles are opening on the road. The Isles are 11-22-8 in 41 previous road openers and are 10-21-10 on Opening Night (including 8-17-8 when they open on the road). The Isles are 2-7-2 in their last 11 Opening Nights, with their win in New Jersey last season being their first since 2007.

Opening Night Skinny:

This is the first time the Isles have ever opened a season against the Hurricanes franchise. Saturday’s home opener will mark the second time (2005) that Carolina has provided the opposition for the Isles’ home opener.

The Isles 10-21-10 Opening Night record is 3rd worst among current teams; however, it is better than Carolina (8-18-8, including Hartford). The worst record is Anaheim’s: 5-15-0.

Either Jaroslav Halak or Chad Johnson will get the start on Friday night. He will become the sixth different Islander to start the last seven season openers (Rick DiPietro-Joey MacDonald-Dwayne Roloson-Al Montoya-Evgeni Nabokov-Evgeni Nabokov).

This is the sixth time in club history that the Isles will open on the road, and then have their home opener the following night. The Isles are 2-2-1 in the road game (including a shootout win in New Jersey last season) and are 4-0-1 in the home game (including a shootout loss to Columbus last season). The Isles opened at home and then played the next night on the road in 1980, when they defeated Boston and Washington in their first two games as Stanley Cup Champions.

It is only the second time in club history that the Isles are opening the season with a home-and-home series. In 2007, the Isles won in Buffalo on Opening Night (6-4) and then defeated the Sabres (3-2) at the Coliseum the following evening. That 2007-2008 season was the last time the Isles opened the season 2-0-0; it has happened only four other times: 1976-77, 1980-81, 1987-88 and 2001-02.

The Isles have been involved in three shutouts on Opening Night. Chico Resch blanked the Flyers in 1976, while the Kings (Stephane Fiset in 1996) and Panthers (Jose Theodore in 2011) turned the trick on the Isles.

A defenseman had scored the first goal of the season for the Isles in four straight seasons before Michael Grabner scored the Isles first two goals last season.

Newcomer Mikhail Grabovski is one of four Active Players with an Opening Night hat trick:

•Paul Stastny, COL (10/3/07 vs. DAL)

•Derek Stepan, NYR (10/9/10 at BUF)

Mikhail Grabovski, WSH (10/1/13 at CHI)

•Radim Vrbata, PHX (10/3/13 vs. NYR)

The Islander club record for the fastest goal on Opening Night is 1:01, set by Dave Scatchard on October 10, 2002 in Buffalo. The NHL record for the fastest Opening Night goal is 0:10, set by Kent Nilsson of Minnesota (10/11/86 @ Quebec).

And some other Skinny notes:

Chhh Chhh Changes

All hope springs eternal on Opening Night and this year it’s driven by the addition of seven key players:

Goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson

Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy

Forwards Cory Conacher, Mikahail Grabovski, and Nikolay Kulemin

Those seven players are joined on the Opening Night roster by Cal Clutterbuck (who was on IR for the opener last season) and Ryan Strome.

That leaves only 14 players from last year’s opening night roster; three of the other 9 are on IR (Michael Grabner, Lubomir Visnovsky and Matt Carkner). Kevin Poulin is in Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Andrew Mac Donald, Matt Moulson, Evgeni Nabokov, and Peter Regin are no longer with the organization.

A Bit More Mature

The Isles dressed 11 rookies in each of the final three games last April; however Griffin Reinhart is the only NHL rookie on the current squad. He is also the only one to have never played an NHL game, although he was also a part of last season’s Opening Night roster.

Youth Be Served

The Islanders 23-man roster consists of one player born in the 1970s (Eric Boulton) and eight players born in the 1990s (Casey Cizikas, Matt Donovan, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Brock Nelson, Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Strome and John Tavares). The other 14 players were born in the 1980s.

The Isles do not have a teenager on the opening night roster. Reinhart is the youngest Islander; he’ll turn 21 in January. Ryan Strome, who turned 21 in July is the second youngest.

Johnny Boychuk is the second oldest player on the roster (1/19/1984).

Halak to Get Excited About

Jarsoslav Halak brings a career record of 144-85-29 to Long Island, with a career GAA of 2.38 and a save percentage of .918. To put Halak’s statistics in perspective, only Billy Smith (305) and Chico Resch (157) have won more games in an Islander uniform while Halak’s GAA and save percentage would rank 1st in Islander history.

Chad Johnson is 20-6-6 in his career, with a career GAA of 2.07 and a save percentage of .926.

Knowing How to Win

Both Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have Stanley Cup rings on their resume. Boychuk went +12 for the champion Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs; he is +89 in 321 regular season games. Leddy has played in 41 playoff games the last two springs for Chicago, winning the Stanley Cup with the 2013 team. Leddy has not missed a regular season game since he was a teenager, having played in 252 consecutive games dating back to January 7, 2011 and in 54 of 55 Blackhawk playoff games over the last four years.

Boychuk and Leddy give the Islanders two former Stanley Cup winners for the first time since Bill Guerin and Doug Weight were teammates for most of the 2008-09 season.

Back Together Again

Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski had their best season together, when playing for the Maple Leafs in 2010-11. Kulemin went 30-27-57 while Grabovski was 29-29-58. Kulemin is 84-111-195 in 421 NHL games (all with Toronto) while Grabovsky is 107-145-252 in 425 games.

Cory Conacher finished 6th in the Calder Trophy balloting in 2012-13. The 24-year-old is 18-37-55 in 126 career NHL games. Winning runs in his family; he is a distant relative of Hockey Hall of Famers Charlie, Roy, and Lionel Conacher.

Stability at the Top

Jack Capuano begins the season as the 6th-longest tenured coach with his current team while Garth Snow begins the season as the 8th-longest tenured GM with his current squad.

Of the nine New York head coaches/managers, only Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan and Joe Girardi were appointed before Capuano, who assumed his role with the Islanders eight days before Terry Collins became the manager of the Mets.

A Look Back

The Islanders went 34-37-11 overall last season, 13-19-9 at home (including 0-1-0 at Yankee Stadium) and 21-18-2 on the road. The Isles were 10-4-2 in their last 16 games. The Isles earned at least 44 points on the road for the first time since 2001-02.

The Islanders finished last season 17-5-2 in their last 24 road games; it’s the first time in franchise history that the Isles have earned 36 points over a stretch of 24 road games (single season) in their history. The Isles went 21-18-2 on the road, earning at least 44 points for the first time since they finished with 47 in 2001-02. The Isles had the 9th best road record in the Eastern Conference last season, after finishing with the second-best road record in the East the previous season.

The Isles were only 13-19-9 at home last season. Over the last two seasons, the Isles are 23-30-12 (58 points in 65 games) at home and 35-24-6 (76 points in 65 games) on the road. The Isles have finished above NHL-.500 at home only once in the past seven seasons.

2013-14 was the first complete season that the Isles earned at least nine more points on the road than at home. The Isles earned 32 points on the road and 23 points at home during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

Second to The One

Jack Capuano is the 2nd coach in Islander history to win 100 games (in Toronto 1/7/2014) and the 2nd coach in Islander history to coach 250 games (vs Boston on 1/27/2014). He is 2nd on the all-time Islander list in both games coached (277) and wins (118).

Most games coached (Islanders):

1.Al Arbour 1,500

2.Jack Capuano 277

3.Mike Milbury 191

4.Terry Simpson 187

5.Scott Gordon 181

Most wins by Islander coaches:

1.Al Arbour 740

2.Jack Capuano 118

3.Terry Simpson 81

4.Peter Laviolette 77

5.Ted Nolan 74

Head of the Class

Islander Captain John Tavares has 315 career points; he is 52 points ahead of Matt Duchene for most among 2009 draft picks. No other player in that draft is anywhere close. Tavares also has more goals and more assists than any other player in that draft.

All-time Winners

The Islanders start the season six games over all-time NHL .500 (1405-1399-450 in 3,254 games). The Isles have not been more than 1 game under NHL-.500 since January 11, 1978 and have finished every season since 1977-78 over all-time NHL .500.

Ironman

Nick Leddy played in 252 consecutive regular season games before joining the Islanders.

Thomas Hickey was the only Islander to play in every game last season. He is the Islanders’ reigning ironman.

Hickey is only the second Isles defenseman since Janne Niinimaa (2003-04) to appear in all 82 games in a season. Mark Streit did so twice, in 2009-10 and 2011-12.

All-time Islander Leader Board:

John Tavares has:

•136 goals (16th all-time, 9 behind Mariusz Czerkawski and 11 behind Pierre Turgeon)

•179 assists (17th all-time, 2 behind Ed Westfall and 14 behind Pierre Turgeon)

•315 points (17th all-time, 16 behind Ziggy Palffy, 18 behind Tomas Jonsson and 25 behind Pierre Turgeon

•350 games played (43rd among Islander skaters all-time, 31 behind Randy Wood)

Frans Nielsen has:

•85 goals (36th all-time, 2 behind Butch Goring and 7 behind Travis Green)

•169 assists (21st all-time, 2 behind Alexei Yashin & Duane Sutter and 6 behind Kenny Jonsson)

•254 points (Tied-24th all-time with Kyle Okposo, 4 behind Jason Blake & Steve Thomas)

•447 games played (30th among Islander skaters all-time, 3 behind Scott Lachance and 12 behind Trent Hunter)

Kyle Okposo has:

•99 goals (Tied-27th all-time with Trent Hunter, 2 behind Anders Kallur and 6 behind Ed Westfall & Benoit Hogue)

•155 assists (25th all-time, 8 behind Ziggy Palffy, 11 behind Jeff Norton and 12 behind Jean Potvin)

•254 points (Tied-24th all-time with Frans Nielsen, 4 behind Jason Blake & Steve Thomas)

•390 games played (39th among Islander skaters all-time, 2 behind Bert Marshall and 6 behind David Volek)

Michael Grabner has:

•82 goals (38th all-time, 2 behind Tomas Jonsson, 3 behind Frans Nielsen and 5 behind Butch Goring)

Josh Bailey has:

•406 games played (35th among Islander skaters all-time, 5 behind Wayne Merrick and 16 behind Dave Langevin)

Eric Hornick has been the statistician on Islander home game telecasts since 1982. Information contained in “The Skinny” has been gathered from various sources. Follow Eric @ehornick on Twitter and visit his blog nyiskinny.com.

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