There are two things that we know for sure about the New York Islanders lineup today for Game 1.
1. There will be a goaltender.
2. Everyone outside of Ilya Sorokin is available to play.
Other than that, Barry Trotz was not giving out any other information prior to Game 1 against the Florida Panthers. What we can surmise is that most of the lineup we saw on Wednesday will be out there today.
Could Trotz dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen? “Yes, there’s a chance,” Trotz slyly responded on Friday when asked that.
The Islanders bench boss has notably been evasive about who will be in net for the first game. If Wednesday is any indication, it will likely be Semyon Varlamov, who made 19 saves in two periods of work against the New York Rangers.
Then, of course, there is the question of who will play alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard on the third line. Ross Johnston spent all of Wednesday’s exhibition tilt on that line and split time on that line with Tom Kuhnhakl during training camp.
Whoever is on the ice for the Islanders come 4 pm today, Trotz is confident that they’ll be in playoff mode.
"They've been working towards this moment for the last few months really knowing we were going to get back into it.”
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) July 31, 2020
“They’ve been working towards this moment, if you will, for the last few months,” Trotz said Friday after practice. “Knowing that we were going to get back into it. I think we’ve put ourselves in as good a place that we can to be our best.
“Hopefully our best is good enough.”
For their part, the players have been itching to get back on the ice in a competitive manner. The Islanders got a taste of that on Wednesday in the exhibition match, but Game 1 will have a much different feel than that.
And there will be no shortage of jump from the team.
“It does feel like we have a playoff game tomorrow,” Cal Clutterbuck said on Friday. “Just given the last eight weeks…it’s been a lot of practicing and a long time coming. I don’t think you have to search very far for motivation in this situation. It’s an opportunity you don’t get all the time. There’s going to be no lack of motivation.”
Projected Islanders Lines:
Anders Lee — Mat Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Ross Johnston — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Derick Brassard
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy — Johnny Boychuk
Like the Islanders, the Florida Panthers have a healthy roster of players to choose from for Game 1. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start in net for Florida and the team’s top defensive pairing of MacKenzie Weegar and Aaron Ekblad will be in the lineup.
Both defenders sat out of Wednesday’s 5-0 exhibition loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov should be back as the top line as well. Florida head coach Joel Quenneville split that line up for the first two periods on Wednesday but put them back together in the third period.
Projected Panthers Lines:
Jonathan Huberdeau — Sasha Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov
Frank Vatrano — Erik Haula — Mike Hoffman
Lucas Wallmark — Brian Boyle — Brett Connolly
Mark Pysyk — Noel Acciari — Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar — Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman — Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle — Mike Matheson
The Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers in all three meetings during the regular season this year. The Islanders first win over the Panthers on Oct 12 was the first game in a stretch of 10 straight victories for the Isles and 17 consecutive games with points.
How to Watch:
Locally the game will air on MSG+ and MSG GO, and nationally on NBCSN. For those outside the New York market, the game can also be streamed on NHL.TV. On the radio dial, the game will air on 98.7 FM ESPN New York, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.