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At the Rink: Hurricanes at Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Back in the day, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was known to the locals as "Fort Neverlose" because the New York Islanders rarely lost there.

The Islanders hope to channel some of that old-time success when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday in their final home opener at the Coliseum before the franchise moves to Brooklyn next year.

The Islanders missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season despite having a winning record on the road because they were just 13-19-9 in what used to be one of the toughest buildings in the NHL for visiting teams. That includes two losses in as many games to the Hurricanes, who are 11-1-2 in their last 14 visits to Long Island.

"That's something that has to change. We know that," forward Kyle Okposo said Saturday when asked about the Islanders' struggles in their own building. "We have to be better at home. Last year we would have been right there if we had a halfway decent home record."

A packed house will see if the revamped Islanders can complete a home-and-home sweep of the Hurricanes after their season-opening 5-3 win in Raleigh on Friday.

Coach Jack Capuano knows the Islanders will miss the playoffs again if they don't improve their performance at home.

"It's crucial; if we want to make the playoffs, we have to win at home," Capuano said Saturday. "We know that to be successful, [our play at home] has to be better than it was last year."

Capuano will go with the same forwards and defensemen that generated five goals on Friday, but will start Chad Johnson in goal after Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves to win his Islanders debut.

"That's why you have two quality goaltenders," Capuano said when asked why he was starting Johnson, who excelled as Tuukka Rask's backup in Boston last season and signed with New York as a free agent this summer.

Carolina will also change goaltenders, with Anton Khudobin getting the start after Cam Ward was beaten five times on 26 shots.

The Islanders' victory spoiled Bill Peters' coaching debut with Carolina.

"I liked our start," he said after the morning skate, "but the back-to-back penalties [late in the first period] hurt us and put us on our heels."

The Islanders scored once during a 5-on-3 advantage and made it 2-0 on Brock Nelson's goal one second after the second penalty expired. The Hurricanes spent the rest of the night playing catch-up.

Peters, who spent the past three seasons as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings, said he's glad to get a quick chance for a quick payback.

"It's really a good opportunity when you think about it," he said. "You're playing the same team, you get the chance to exact a little revenge. You've seen them play and you know what to expect."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Patrick Dwyer

Chris Terry - Riley Nash - Patrick Brown

Justin Faulk - Andrej Sekera

Ryan Murphy - John-Michael Liles

Tim Gleason - Jay Harrison

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratched: Brett Bellemore, Ron Hainsey

Injured: Jeff Skinner (concussion), Jordan Staal (broken leg)


Cory Conacher - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Mikhail Grabovski - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Brian Strait - Griffin Reinhart

Chad Johnson

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton

Injured: Michael Grabner (lower body), Lubomir Visnovsky (back) Matt Carkner (back), Calvin de Haan (upper body)

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