It’s been nearly four months since the New York Islanders played a competitive hockey game, but that changes tonight when the puck drops between the Islanders and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden to start the 2020-21 NHL season.
It will be the first of eight meetings between the New York hockey rivals this season, with teams only facing other teams in their own division. The Islanders and Rangers have only met on opening night on two other occasions.
It will be a special moment considering the uncertainty there was just a few weeks ago about whether a season would even take place.
“I think with everything going on and there was some uncertainty at times with how this was going to all play out,” Islanders captain Anders Lee explained. “Now that it’s all set in stone we couldn’t be more excited to get things rolling again. We’re luck enough to be able to do what we love and going out and playing games together. All that stuff that makes our job so much fun.”
"Our level of determination and focus is a result of where we've been and where we've come to. We know what we have in front of us, the opportunity that's here and the group in the room. We just want to make sure we take advantage of our time."
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 14, 2021
The Islanders start the year with plenty of expectations on them from the rest of the hockey world and from themselves. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993 in September and were two wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
The task of getting back into that position will be made more complicated this year with the realignment of the divisions due to COVID-19.
“This division has gotten really hard,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s no easy games in the National Hockey League, but there’s definitely with our division you’re not going to get a night off. They’re going to be hard games. You’re going to have to have your detail. You’re going to have to have your structure, you’re going to have to have your focus and it’s going to be a grind.”
"You really have to keep that short term memory and the short term focus. The focus is just on the game at hand."
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 14, 2021
What the Islanders lineup will look like is still up in the air. Trotz indicated during his media availability earlier today that the team did make some roster moves ahead of tonight’s game.
“I would think that from our standpoint you probably could see one (change),” Trotz said when talking about the Islanders lineup.
One roster decision that was announced was that Semyon Varlamov would start in net for the Islander in the season opener. Igor Shesterkin will start in goal for the New York Rangers and Rangers head coach David Quinn confirmed that Mika Zibanejad will be in their lineup.
#NYR Coach Quinn confirms Mika Zibanejad will play tonight vs. NYI.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 14, 2021
New York Islanders Lineup (Projected)
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — JosBailey
Ross Johnston — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Kieffer Bellows
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
NickLeddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
New York Rangers Lineup (Projected)
Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Pavel Buchnevich
Artemi Panarin — Ryan Strome — Kaapo Kakko
Alexis Lafreniere — Filip Chytil — Julien Gauthier
Brendan Lemieux — Brett Howden — Phillip Di Giuseppe
Ryan Lindgren — Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller — Jacob Trouba
Jack Johnson — Tony DeAngelo
The last meeting between the Islanders and Rangers was on July 29 in an exhibition game at the start of the postseason tournament in Toronto. … The Islanders went 1-2-1 against the Rangers during the 2019-20 season. Brock Nelson led the team in goals with three against the Rangers and Josh Bailey had five points in the four meetings. … 2020 First overall selection Alexis Lafrenière and K’Andre Miller will make their NHL debut tonight the New York Rangers.
How to Watch
Tonight’s game will air locally on MSG+2 or is streamable on MSG Go or on NHL.tv outside of the New York market. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 1050 AM ESPN, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.
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