The New York Islanders start their 2021 season tonight against the New York Rangers. Here’s everything to know about the first game of the season.
Hockey is finally back! For the first time since September 17, 2020, the New York Islanders will be back in action. Even though the year may have changed, the goal remains the same for the Islanders: Win the Stanley Cup.
The Islanders have a great matchup to kick off their season. They are playing their archrivals, the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden with puck drop scheduled for shortly after 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Both the Islanders and Rangers made the postseason in the most recent season. The Islanders had a magical run to the Eastern Conference finals where they performed admirably but were eliminated in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the other hand, the Rangers were disposed of in three games in a best-of-five series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders have a roster that is similar to their 2019-2020 team with the addition of some prospects and minus a few stalwarts, while the Rangers have a new-look roster.
This game is an interesting matchup as the Islanders are the favorites according to some and the underdogs according to others, courtesy of the Action network.
The first game of any season is always the toughest one to predict, especially when the teams have not played any preseason games. Most likely the difference in tonight’s game will be goaltending. This matchup is a toss-up and should be extremely fun to watch.
The Islanders announced their 23-player roster yesterday and it looks extremely similar to last season’s team. The blue and orange lost Derick Brassard and Thomas Greiss to free agency, Devon Toews was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, and Johnny Boychuk was forced to retire due to an eye injury.
The Islanders were in a tough cap situation and had to re-sign their restricted free agents rather than going into the open market and making a big splash.
The Islanders’ lineup is most likely going to feature the same lines that skated together at yesterday’s practice.
On forward, the Islanders’ top-six and fourth line will remain the same as last year. The big difference we will see for the Isles is on their third line. Jean-Gabriel Pageau will have two new linemates at the start of this season. We will most likely see JGP centering Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston tonight.
Michael Dal Colle is on the injured reserve and is unavailable for tonight’s game. As of now, there is no timetable for his return.
The Islanders’ defense will be led by their top-shutdown pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. Behind them, will be Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield together. This will then lead to the third combination of Noah Dobson and Andy Greene, which is a perfect combination of young and old.
Semyon Varlamov is projected to be starting in goal tonight with Illya Sorokin as his backup.
The Islanders are projected to lineup like this:
The Rangers will have a new look in 2021. The Rangers lost a handful of players to free agency including long-time netminder and fan favorite, Henrik Lundqvist to the Washington Capitals and they traded long-serving defenseman, Marc Staal, to Detriot.
The Rangers have definitely turned their roster to a more youthful look. The blue, red, and white won the draft lottery and had the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. With the first pick, the Rangers selected Alexis Lafrenière.
Lafrenière will be making his highly anticipated NHL debut tonight. Along with him, twenty-year-old American-born defenseman, K’Andre Miller is also projected to make his debut in tonight’s contest.
The only other major roster news regarding the rangers involves star player Mika Zibanejad. Zibanejad is expected to play tonight after recovering from COVID-19.
On offense, the Rangers also feature dynamic goalscorer Artemi Panarin and 2019 first overall pick Kaapo Kakko.
On the backend, the Rangers will have much different d-pairs compared to last season. They acquired Jack Johnson and is he projected to play on the third pair along with Anthony DeAngelo. The other pairs will feature Long Island native, Adam Fox with Ryan Lindgren, and K’Andre Miller with Jacob Trouba.
The Rangers look to have a strong tandem of goalies this year and as mentioned in the tweet above, Igor Shesterkin will be starting in net for their home opener. Alexandar Georgiev will be the backup netminder.
The Rangers are projected to lineup like this:
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Where to Catch the Game
TV: MSG (NYR Telecast), MSG+2 (Islanders Telecast), TVAS, NHL Network, MSG GO
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU (Islanders Radio), 98.7 WEPN (NYR Radio)
*All Stats Provided by the NHL*