Will the New York Islanders offense show up in the playoffs? Will Semyon Varlamov come up clutch against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Will the power play produce?
Those questions will finally be answered today when the puck drops between the Islanders and Pittsburgh for Game 1 at PPG Paints Arena. It marks the sixth time in franchise history that New York and Pittsburgh will square off in the postseason.
The New York slanders went 2-4-2 against Pittsburgh during the regular season, which included losing all but one game against them during their six meetings in the month of February. Most of their matchups during the regular season have been close, with five of the eight games that they played being decided by one goal.
However, historically the Islanders have fared well against their Steel City rival during the postseason. New York has won all but one series against Pittsburgh, which was a series loss in six games in 2013. The Islanders swept them in 2019 and hold a 17-12 record against Pittsburgh in playoff games.
The Islanders have spent the past week prepping for the series on Long Island at Northwell Health Ice Center and have been chomping at the bit to begin the playoffs.
“Excited. We can’t wait for it,” Jordan Eberle said following Saturday’s practice. “It’s actually been nice to have time off and get some practices in. Work on some stuff, but kind of reenergize and get set to go here. Right now the feeling is just excitement. … This is the time of year that you wait all year for and you work so hard to get to and now it’s here. Just ready to go.”
Semyon Varlamov returned to practice on Saturday after missing Wednesday and Thursday’s on-ice work. Varlamov left the regular-season finale against Boston on Monday and Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said that he had a “little sprain.”
All signs point to Varlamov starting Game 1, but Trotz did not confirm who would be starting following practice on Saturday.
“I think we all know what our goalies mean to our team,” Scott Mayfield said. “What we’re able to accomplish this year in terms of goals against and how well they played. I think no matter who is net we’re confident in them and they’re going to play well.”
The New York Islanders have been using the same lines in practice as they had been during the final couple of games during the regular season and they are expected to keep them at least for Game 1.
There is some slight concern in Pittsburgh over the availability of Evgeni Malkin and Casey DeSmith is for the opening game of the series. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan called DeSmith day-to-day.
Malkin was on the ice for practice on Saturday, but did not participate in line rushes or power-play drills, according to Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
New York Islanders Lines (Projected)
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri — Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy – Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines (Projected)
Jake Guentzel -– Sidney Crosby -– Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker -– Evgeni Malkin -– Kasperi Kapanen
Jared McCann -– Jeff Carter -– Frederick Gaudreau
Zach Aston-Reese -– Teddy Blueger – Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin -– Kris Letang
Mike Matheson -– Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson — John Marino
Pittsburgh is 9-3 all-time in playoff series under head coach Mike Sullivan. His nine playoff series victories are the most in franchise history. … Pittsburgh is making its 15th consecutive postseason appearance this year, which is both an active franchise record and the longest active playoff streak for any North American major professional sports franchise. … Sidney Crosby (three goals, six assists) and Kris Letang (four goals, five assists) shared the scoring lead for Pittsburgh versus the Islanders during the regular season. No NHL players had more points against the Islanders this season than Crosby and Letang. … Matt Martin enters Game 1 as the only Islanders player to in every one of the team’s playoff games dating back to 2013. … The Islanders have made the playoffs in each of Barry Trotz’s first three seasons and are 17-13 in that span with three series wins. … Brock Nelson was one of eight players in the NHL to record three or more game-winning goals in the 2020 playoffs.
How to Watch
Today’s game airs on NBC and can be streamed on the NBC Sports app. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 1050 AM ESPN, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.