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BACK IN NEW YORK GROOVE: Islanders Lineup, Matchups and Notes vs. Rangers

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New York Islanders lineup faceoff with the New York Rangers

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.

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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.”

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.”

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.

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

Semyon Varlamov

Ilya Sorokin

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

Igor Shesterkin

Alexandar Georgiev

Game Notes

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 Lafreni√®re and K‚ÄôAndre 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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[…] 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 […]

New York Islanders

Young blood: Noah Dobson making strides at blue line for Islanders

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Noah Dobson

When the New York Islanders traded defenseman Devon Toews in the lead-up to the season, it almost inevitably gave Noah Dobson a more prominent role on the teams defensive corps.

When Johnny Boychuk announced his career was over, it thrust Dobson into an important role.

So far, the 21-year-old has held his own and has been a key contributor to the defense.

In four games, Dobson’s recorded three assists — half his point total from 34 regular-season games last year. More than the point production, though, the Prince Edward Island native has seen a significant uptick in his ice time.

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

Already this year, he’s averaging over 18 minutes per game, which is five minutes more than he was during his rookie season. But he’s also been a key piece on the power play, generating two of his three points on the extra-man unit.

After Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils, head coach Barry Trotz said Dobson had put in extra work to have a more visible offensive side. Dobson had drawn rave reviews in the QMJHL for his stay-at-home defensive play, but has added a little more of an aggressive offensive dimension this year. That was especially noticeable on the power play against New Jersey when he came into the slot for a shot attempt that went wide but set up Jordan Eberle’s second goal of the game.

“He’s been putting extra time in and some work on the power play as well as 5-on-5,” Trotz said. “I just think that the more he plays, the more comfortable that he gets, the more confidence he gets the better it is for us and better it is for him. I thought he’s responded well from the Ranger game, hopefully, he continues to grow.”

In the aforementioned Rangers game, Noah Dobson took a penalty and was a minus-2 in what was a sloppy 5-0 loss for the Islanders. But after two points and a season-high 20:24 of ice time against New Jersey, Dobson quickly recovered.

Defensively, he’s blocked 12 shots and worked with veteran Andy Greene, though he pair has been toward the bottom for the Islanders in terms of possession. According to Natural Stat Trick, the two have a 35.90 Corsi For percentage in over 40 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 together. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but that’s a number the Islanders would like to see rise significantly. Right now, it’s the worst pair on the team that’s played any significant minutes this year.

Noah Dobson Natural Stat Trick

Some of Noah Dobson’s stats from the 2020-21 season.

But the good news for Dobson, outside of playing with Greene, he has a CF percentage of 58.33 in a little over 13 minutes of ice time with other partners.

When the Islanders dealt Toews to the Colorado Avalanche, they lost a player who could move the puck and chip in significant time on the power play. While it might be unfair to slip Dobson right into the Toews-sized hole left on defense and power play, he can at least remain a decent contributor in facilitating offense and helping the man advantage.

And so far he has, recording over 2:30 minutes of power-play time in each of the four games this year. As the year goes on, Dobson expects to continue to grow and have that experience benefit him.

“I think confidence is a huge thing, I think the more games you play the more comfortable you feel,” Noah Dobson said Thursday. “Every game I’m getting more comfortable, more confident. I think there’s more opportunities to jump up into the play.”

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New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

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Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. —¬†There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.


Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game

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The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. —¬†Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

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