Nino Niederreiter, P.A. Parenteau, James Wisniewski and John Tavares walk to the ice for today’s morning skate in preparation for the season opener. The fifth person is a Swiss reporter following Nino’s every move.
11:15 am, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: Tonight’s scratches on defense will be Bruno Gervais and Jack Hillen. (And to think, all those emails and comments about Point Blank resuming drinking because I pointed out Jack’s B-squad assignments). Scott Gordon would not give the reasons why, saying he was meeting with Hillen later this morning. For Hillen, who suffered a major injury last season when he took an Ovechkin slap shot to the face, I would hope it’s more a numbers game than a serious reflection on his play.
As expected, Michael Grabner will sit out as he learns the systems and the Islanders look at what they have on the right side with 18-year-old Nino Niederreiter and unproven free agent signing P.A. Parenteau.
Islanders Lineup – Game 1
Comeau – Tavares – Parenteau
Moulson – Nielsen – Hunter
Bailey – Weight – Niederreiter
Gillies – Konopka – Sim
Mottau – Wisniewski
Eaton – Martinek
Jurcina – MacDonald
(Hillen – Gervais)
Blake Comeau on his placement on a line with John Tavares: “It feels good to be given the responsibility. John’s an elite player. You cannot ask for a better opportunity than to be on his line. My job is to create some space for my linemates, play the body and hopefully continue to contribute points like I did in the second half last season. With Kyle (Okposo) out for a while, it’s on me and a few of the guys to step up our production.”
Nino Niederreiter on his role: “No matter what level I’m at, I have to do the little things, but I’m a goal scorer. It’s my jobs to puck pucks in nets.”
Zenon Konopka on Game 1: “We have to play off the emotion and the intensity that comes with a home opener. There’s lot of potential here. It’s time to start the adventure.”
The players and coaching staff put in a full week of work in preparation for tonight’s opener. In a bit of a surprise, the Islanders practiced every day for five straight – including one double-session on Wednesday. No one can say Scott Gordon, Dean Chynoweth, Scott Allen and Sudarshan Maharaj don’t put the time in. Teams all over the league, with most like the Islanders not opening their seasons until today, took days off.
Rick DiPietro starts tonight, but opted to rest instead of take the morning skate. Kari Lehton starts again by Dallas after beating New Jersey last night.
By the way Coach Gordon was talking this morning, it certainly sounds like the organization views DiPietro as its No. 1 goaltender. Gordon disclosed that he met with Dwayne Roloson about his role mid-camp and yesterday, and said Maharaj met with Roloson recently. Gordon also talked about the Islanders having plenty of back-to-backs and how Roloson will get his starts. I was a bit surprised that the head coach didn’t simply play up the notion, “We have two No. 1s,” but always appreciate the candor.
The Islanders are 24-10-3 in their first 37 home openers. Tonight is just the sixth time in 38 years that the Islanders will open the season at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders are 2-2-1 in season openers at home.
Calvin de Haan had two assists and was plus-2 in Oshawa’s 8-7 shootout loss to Kingston last night. Kirill Kabanov was held scoreless and was minus-2 in his season debut with Moncton, a 6-2 loss in Saint John.
Former Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara has signed a seven-year contract extension worth $6.5 million per. As Nick Kypreos tweeted this morning, most of the big money in the NHL these days is being spent on stud blueliners.
The best news to come out of the Islanders’ deal with Radio Hofstra University is the assignment of Chris King as the play-by-play voice. King has been working in Islanders radio for a long time, and I know how much he dreamed of being the lead announcer. Son of a gun also enters the season in fighting shape, looking like he dropped at least 20 pounds. “I spent a lot of time this summer on the bike.” Congratulations to the good man we call Kinger.
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