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Richards: Islanders should feel confident in Greiss

Former NHL coach offers analysis of Game 1 between New York and Florida

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders, has enlisted the help of Todd Richards to break down the action. Richards will be checking in throughout the series.

Richards, 49, was the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2012-15 and the Minnesota Wild from 2009-11. The Blue Jackets were 127-112-21 under Richards. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in 2014.

Some might think New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano may be nervous about having to start an untested Thomas Greiss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Don't include former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards among that group.

"I don't think he's worried one bit," Richards told Thursday before the Islanders faced the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at BB&T Center (8 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-F, CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2). "The reason why you have two goaltenders is because they both have to play and they both have to win. I know this is going to be a little bit of unchartered waters for Thomas Greiss, but I think he's going to do a great job.

Video: NYI@NYR: Greiss stones Zuccarello and Brassard

"I think the other reason why Jack Capuano is probably more confident than most people is he's got a great team. He really does."

It's not farfetched to think Panthers coach Gerard Gallant will tell his players to shoot early and often at Greiss to see if Greiss has playoff jitters. Richards thinks that could be the right way to attack Game 1, but added Florida can't ignore a system that helped it win 47 games and an Atlantic Division title.

"You can't get away from who you are and what you do," Richards said. "I think they'll have a game plan in place as far as how they want to attack it and what they want to do."

There's obviously plenty of attention focused on Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who led them with 66 points (27 goals, 39 assists) at age 44. But Richards noted Jagr is hardly the lone talent up front.

"There's lots of other guys they have to take note of, but Jaromir Jagr, to me he is defining an NHL player and the career," Richards said. "There are few people that have done that in different sports, but I'll tell you what, he is a great example. You see these guys that play into their 40s, kind of defying age and what they're doing in their job and their business. He's a guy that you have to take special note of, but what I like is the Florida Panthers' depth up and down their team. It starts with their goaltender (Roberto) Luongo, but they play a fast, quick, hard game, and you better be ready to skate against them. I think it's going to be a great series.

Video: PIT@NYI: Hamonic blocks final-second shot to seal win

The Islanders received good news Thursday when it was announced that defenseman Travis Hamonic would play for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 31. Hamonic is New York's leader in ice time and plays in all situations.

"They're a talented, talented offensive group," Richards said. "You better be ready to check against them. Having a guy like Hamonic on the back end is just adding somebody with not only talent and ability, but just some experience on the back end."

Neither team has won a playoff series in two decades; the Islanders have gone 23 years since upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. Florida hasn't gotten out of the first round since reaching the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

"There's probably equal pressure on both teams as far as the expectations the Islanders have coming into the season, and I think there's some pressure on Florida for they've done in the regular season," Richards said. "Now, can [the Panthers] parlay that into the playoffs?"

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