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New York Islanders

Anders Lee: Rask Making Best Decision for Himself and Family

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The New York Islanders, like the rest of the hockey world, reacted to the news that Boston Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask had opted out of the remainder of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rask made the announcement before the Bruins were slated to face the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the First Round. Rask and his wife, Jasmiina Nikkila, recently had a baby girl and they also have two other young daughters at home.

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Islanders captain Anders Lee certainly understood where Rask was coming from. Lee and his wife welcomed their first child to the world in March right before COVID-19 paused the season.

“I don’t know Tuukka personally, but he’s making the best decision for himself and his family,” Anders Lee said. “I think that takes a lot of strength to do that in a situation where he wants to be there for his teammates and they’re going through a run.”

Three Takeaways: There’s No Stopping the Islanders | NYHN+

Several members of the Islanders organization can sympathize with the position Rask found himself in. Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle all had new additions to their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Matt Martin and his wife Syndey welcomed their first child as well during training camp in July.

That’s not to mention the other players on the team that also have families that they had to think about when they committed to playing the 2020 postseason in the Toronto bubble.

“It’s tough being away from the family and your kids,” Lee said. “You have to do your best. All the FaceTimes and staying in touch. It’s not easy, but (our families) couldn’t be more supportive to us. We are blessed enough to have this opportunity to come and play here.”

The Islanders captain later added: “It’s a pretty special time, but at the same time it can be difficult being away from your family and not being able to see them.”

The Islanders did not have any players opt out of the NHL’s return to play. As a whole, the NHL had very few players decide to opt-out of playing.

Calgary Flames defenseman and for Islanders Travis Hamonic had been the most notable player to opt-out before the NHL began to play again earlier this month.

The Islanders to their credit made their players well aware of the realities of the situation well before they left for Toronto. Islanders head coach and general manager Lou Lamoriello wanted to make sure both the players and their families understood the commitment they were getting into.

Barry Trotz

“That was discussed thoroughly with our leadership group and our team as a whole,” Trotz said. “I think Lou was very clear to everybody that the commitment had to be there. If not, just (opt-out) early rather than late. We talked about that and our players understand that.

“We have a really good set of wives and girlfriends that understand the process that there is commitment.”

The Islanders bench boss noted that the players and coaches miss plenty of moments with their respective family and friends, but they are able to give them certain moments back. Trotz recalled being able to share his Stanley Cup Championship with his family in 2018.

“That’s a gift you can give to your family,” Trotz said. “I think being a spouse or family member of an athlete takes a lot of commitment and understanding. I think we’re in a good place with our group.”

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New York Islanders

Three Takeaways: Dobson, Bellows Look Good, Barzal Finds Two-Way Game in Win | NYHN+

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New York Islanders players

The New York Islanders started off the 2020-21 NHL season off on the right foot Thursday night with a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers.

The Islanders capitalized on the power play on several occasions, they received timely goaltending when they needed it and their top-six forwards found the back of the net. Not to mention, the play of several young Islanders hoping to maintain their spots on the roster.

Let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Islanders’ season-opening win over their Manhattan rivals:

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New York Islanders

GARDEN PARTY: Lee, Barzal Lead Islanders Shutout Thrashing of Rangers

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New York Islanders Anders lee Mathew Barzal

The New York Islanders will take a start like that any day.

The Islanders scored three times in the first period, anchored by goals from Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal, and kicked off the 2020-21 season with a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers. Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders on Thursday.

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“I think we just wanted to start on the right foot and get to our game early,” Lee said. “Find that momentum by playing the way we play and I think we did a pretty good of that. It was the result of a good camp and everyone being ready for tonight, and Varly playing a great game as well. Just a good team effort.”

The season-opening win was anchored by a strong effort in the first and third period by the Isles, and a good performance in the net when they needed it from Semyon Varlamov. It was the 10th consecutive opening night start and second with the Islanders for Varlamov, who finished the night with 24 saves.

The opening night shutout was the Isles’ first since Chico Resch accomplished the feat in 1976 against Philadelphia.

“It’s always easy to play like that when we score first,” Varlamov said. “Overall I’m pretty happy with how we did today. I thought the team played very well.”

The Islanders finished the night with 33 shots on net, while holding the young Rangers to 24 shots.

The Isles special teams unit got plenty of work to start the season, with the Rangers giving the Islanders eight power-play chances on Thursday. They capitalized on two of their chances.

It didn’t take long for the Islanders to find the back of the net on Thursday night. It was a mere 2:33 into the game when Nelson lit the lamp for the first of four goals on the evening from the Long Island visitors.

The goal was the fourth fastest the Islanders have scored in a season-opening game in franchise history.

Anthon Beauvillier went for a shot inside the faceoff circle, but had it redirect off the skate of Adam Fox and went right to Nelson in the slot. Nelson quickly put it past Igor Shesterkin for the Isles’ first power-play goal of the year.

Just over a minute later, the Isles struck paydirt again. After Lee took a stick up high he stayed on the ice and after a Rangers turnover was able to create a two-on-one. The Islanders captain fired a shot of the New York goalie’s arm and in for his first of two goals on Thursday.

“I was a little upset. Took one to the teeth and I was making my way back,” Lee said about the goal. “I kind of got lucky that the puck got to Ledds and I could kind of take a chance on hoping that that one got out. He made a great play getting the puck down and it came right to me.”

Barzal capped off a strong first for the Isles with an impressive goal to make it 3-0 after weaving by three Rangers.

Despite a Rangers push in the second, the Islanders were the ones to add a goal in the third. Jordan Eberle threw the puck towards the net and Lee redirected the puck in the slot for his second of the night.

The goal was officially credited to Eberle, but video evidence clearly shows the puck was tipped by Lee.

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New York Islanders

County Exec Laura Curran Cheering on New York Islanders from Quarantine

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Nassau County Exec Laura Curran

As the New York Islanders open their season this evening many Islanders fans will be watching the game from home, which includes Nassau County’s most influential fan of the team county executive Laura Curran.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran will be watching the Islanders battle the New York Rangers from quarantine after she was recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. Curran tweeted out a video this afternoon about her excitement for being able to watch the season opener in its entirety.

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“I guess the small silver lining of quarantine is that I get I watch TV tonight,” Curran said in the video. “And that means I get to watch the entire Islanders game.  Game one,  taking on the Rangers, 7 p.m. puck drops. I am ready.”

Curran’s office announced that the county executive had been exposed to COVID-19 on Wednesday night and she is at the beginning of a 10-day quarantine. Officials from the county executive’s office declined to disclose to Newsday where Curran had been exposed to the virus for privacy reasons.

Curran has been an unabashed fan of the Islanders and today was the second time in five days the Nassau County politician tweeted about the Islanders. The county executive tweeted “YES! YES! YES!” along with a GIF of Mathew Barzal following news that the Islanders star had re-signed for three years with the team on Saturday.

Curran has been a vocal supporter of the UBS Arena project at Belmont Park and of getting the Islanders back on Long Island before the opening of UBS Arena in the fall. Curran twice lobbied NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to allow the Islanders to play at Nassau Coliseum before their new home opens.

In 2019, Curran wrote to Bettman to help persuade him to allow the Islanders to play home playoff games on Long Island. The NHL eventually came to an agreement that allowed the Islanders to play their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum and then after that all home postseason games would move to Barclays Center.

Last year, she called on Bettman again to allow the Islanders to play their final full season before UBS Arena at the Coliseum. The NHL eventually allowed the Islanders to do so after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped in.

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