EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders finally know who they are playing in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and they know it won't be easy.
"Very impressive," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of the Carolina Hurricanes, who rallied for a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. "Obviously, they play a very good team game. Their D corps is strong, the goaltending's been strong, forwards have been strong. They don't go away easy."
Game 1 of the best-of-7 series will be at Barclays Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), 10 days since the Islanders completed their first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Trotz was pleased with how his players stayed focused during the layoff but admitted he noticed an increase in pace Thursday.
"I could tell that we were overbaked," Trotz said. "Overcooked a little bit. We just want to play. You could tell that there's guys that are turning the switch on a little bit more, not that they turned it off. They've done a really good job, but I think the urgency is definitely there. They were a little more business-like, if you will."
The Islanders won three of four games against the Hurricanes during the regular season, though goalie Robin Lehner did not start any of them. Trotz would not say whether Lehner or Thomas Greiss will get the nod in Game 1, but Lehner is expected to start after allowing six goals in four games against the Penguins.
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"Obviously, we've been following the last bunch of days," said Lehner, who had a 1.47 goals-against average and .956 save percentage against Pittsburgh and is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to goalie voted best in the NHL. "Now we're going again."
This is Carolina's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009. Not only did the Hurricanes surprise some by clinching the first wild card in the East, they eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion. The chances prior to the season of a second-round series against the Islanders, also picked by many to miss the playoffs, seemed slim.
"I don't think they were very high. I don't think they were high two weeks ago," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "We've been talking about this a lot, and I think both teams have taken that on and proven a lot of people wrong. We're going to be both trying to do that again.
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"Carolina's a resilient team that's worked hard, not just [Wednesday] night, but all season. The accomplishments that they've had since halfway through the year, they've been on an impressive run. It says a lot about the guys in that room. We're going to have a tough matchup with that, a team that's not going to give up. We've just got to keep coming at them."
The similarities are striking, whether it's how the Islanders, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division, and Hurricanes were viewed prior to the season, how it drove them and how they've used a relentless work ethic to reach this point.
Lehner knows it won't be easy.
"I think we're fairly similar in certain aspects," he said. "I think obviously they have a good back end and they have good skill up front, but I think the common denominator between both teams is we're two hard-working teams. I think we're pretty similar that way.
"I'm going to expect a very, very hard series, because it's going to be hard to suffocate them and they're going to have a hard time suffocating us. It's going to be a lot of physical play. This one's going to be interesting."
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