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Five keys for Islanders vs. Panthers Game 1

Hamonic's return, Greiss' first playoff game as No. 1 goalie among things to watch

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders begin their Eastern Conference First Round series Thursday (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, MSG+, FS-F, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Here are five keys for Game 1:

1. Hamonic returns: Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic missed the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs because of a torn MCL, but he won't be out this year. Hamonic will play Thursday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 31.

"I'm just glad that I have an opportunity to play and be ready," Hamonic said. "It would take a lot to want to keep me out. I'm excited to be playing and I'm grateful that it wasn't too bad. We've got some of the best medical guys for our organization and we've certainly been going at it pretty hard to make sure that I'm ready to rock."

2. 68 looks like he's 25: His birth certificate says he's 44 years old, but Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr continues to perform as though he's in his prime. Jagr led the Panthers in scoring during the regular season (66 points in 79 games) and will be relied on to provide more offense in this series. Even with his experience, Jagr still has butterflies this time of year.

"Of course you do," he said. "When you really care about something, I'm still human. I'm not a machine. I don't know if I'm going to be nervous or not, but when you really care about something, you worry a little bit more."

Video: FLA@OTT: Jagr slams home Barkov's pass in front

3. Youth movement: Islanders coach Jack Capuano has been known to prefer veteran players, but rookies Alan Quine and Ryan Pulock will get the nod over forward Steve Bernier and defenseman Marek Zidlicky in Game 1. Quine played two games over the final weekend of the regular season; Pulock had two goals and two assists in 15 games this season and provides a 100 MPH slap shot from the point.

"It's awesome to get an opportunity," said Quine, who had 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games for Bridgeport of the American Hockey League this season. "I think I've just got to bring my speed and work hard and make sure I'm doing the right things. I think I can get some scoring chances down in the offensive end, and it's a big part of my game that I want to capitalize on."

4. First go-round for Greiss: Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss has never been the No. 1 in the postseason, but that changes Thursday. With starting goalie Jaroslav Halak out because of a lower-body injury, New York is turning to Greiss with hopes of winning its first playoff series since 1993. Greiss had 23 wins and a .925 save percentage during the regular season.

"He's the first one in the morning in the gym," Capuano said. "He watches a lot of video with our video coaches. I don't spend a lot of time with those guys beforehand as our goalies do, but as you go through the games, the one thing I notice is he competes for his ice. He battles. He's on top of his paint. That's what you want to see a goaltender do."

Video: CAR@NYI: Greiss kicks away Skinner's shot

5. Stopping "the fourth line": The Panthers will get to know the Islanders' line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck in a hurry. The three forwards combined for 33 goals during the regular season and Martin led the NHL with 365 hits.

"I don't consider them a fourth line," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "You look at the makeup of that line, they work real hard, they play real hard, they finish checks and they play the game the way they're supposed to play. They do a real good job of that, but they can score goals; I think somebody said to me the other day they got 10 game-winning goals this year. They're an important line and they're not a fourth line."

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