Skip to main content

Tavares debuts as Isles face defending champs @NHLdotcom

PENGUINS (1-0-0) at ISLANDERS (0-0-0)

Season series -- The Islanders are starting their season, while the Penguins debuted on Friday night with a 3-2 home win over the Rangers. The Pens won five of the six meetings last season; their lone loss came in a President's Day shootout at the Nassau Coliseum in Dan Bylsma's debut as coach.

Big Story -- It's the night Islanders fans have been waiting for -- the NHL debut of John Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft this past June. Management is working hard to convince the fan base on Long Island that the 19-year-old isn't going to be a savior this season -- and facing the reigning Stanley Cup champs certainly isn't the easiest way to start your NHL career. Tavares didn't score in his four preseason appearances, but showed flashes of the skills that have Islanders fans drooling.

Team Scope:

Penguins -- Now that the party is over, the Penguins can get down to the serious work of keeping the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. Friday's season-opening win was preceded by a celebration of last spring's championship. The Pens got contributions from their stars -- Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby both scored goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury was in midseason form. But if there were ever a night for a letdown, this could be it.

Islanders -- GM Garth Snow must be a disciple of the Herb Brooks axiom "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." After getting caught short last season when starting goalie Rick DiPietro missed most of the season with injuries, Snow went out and signed two goaltenders who've been No. 1 on successful teams. Dwayne Roloson led Edmonton to the 2006 Final, and Martin Biron was a big part of the Flyers' revival during the past two seasons. Coach Scott Gordon wasn't saying who'll start the opener, but figure both will get a chance to play while DiPietro continues to recuperate.

Who's Hot -- Tavares didn't score during the preseason, but journeyman forward Matt Moulson earned himself an NHL job by scoring four times while playing with him. The two have known each other for years -- Tavares used to play with Moulson's younger brother. Fleury was as sharp as ever against the Rangers, making 25 saves -- including one that looked a lot like his Cup-saving dive across the goalmouth at the final buzzer of Game 7 in the Final last June.

Injury Report -- The Isles led the NHL in man-games lost to injury last season, and they're off to a fast start in retaining that dubious honor. Newly chosen captain Doug Weight (groin) won't play. Center Frans Nielsen (knee) and DiPietro (still recovering from knee and hip surgeries) are on IR. The Isles hope forwards Trent Hunter (chest) and Kyle Okposo (concussion) will be able to go. Pittsburgh playoff hero Maxime Talbot is on IR after offseason shoulder surgery. The rest of the regular cast is healthy.

Stat Pack -- Pittsburgh owns 13 NHL scoring titles in the past 21 years (including Malkin's last season), a run unmatched in NHL history. The Islanders, despite their great history in the late 1970s and 1980s, have had just one -- Bryan Trottier in 1978-79.

Puck Drop -- The Islanders are opening at home for only the fifth time in franchise history (including 1972, when they entered the NHL) and the first time since 1998 -- when they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Penguins. That was the only time the teams have met in a season-opener.

-- John Kreiser,

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.