2013-14 New York Islanders’ Projected Lineup

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New York Islanders' Projected Lines

Islanders Lines
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, they surprised quite a few people around the NHL by making the playoffs. This season, the New York Islanders look poised and ready to do it again. Nobody expected the Islanders to get into the playoffs a season ago, and they did for the first time in seven seasons. Now that this group of Islanders had had that taste of playoff hockey, they are going to be just as hungry to get back there again.

Head Coach Jack Capuano still has his core group back in town from a year ago. John Tavares was just named team captain, and he and Matt Moulson still remain one of the best one-two punches in the game right now. He still has his speed demon in Michael Grabner and his hit king in Matt Martin, so the nucleus is still intact, making this a very bright future here on Long Island.

General Manager Garth Snow made a few moves to try and improve his team from a season ago. He brought back Evgeni Nabokov, signed Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey to nice new extensions, and added in some new blood into the lineup in the form of Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin. Of course with the addition of talent, there is also a subtraction of talent as well. The biggest loss from last year’s team was Mark Streit, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers during the summer. There is enough talent here to possibly get the Islanders back into the playoffs again this season. It just depends on how the line combinations play out and how healthy this team can stay.

With all the movement made during the offseason and with some of the young guns in the Islanders system seemingly ready to make the jump to the big club, the coaching staff is going to have a lot of work ahead of them. With all that being said, here’s how I see the Islanders lineup looking like to start the season off.

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First Line

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Having Tavares and Moulson playing together on the same line is almost a given. Those two guys have played incredibly well together since they were paired up four years ago. The big problem is trying to find the right guy to play on the right wing on the line. That’s where Kyle Okposo comes in at the moment. The team tried Okposo on the top line for a while, and it worked for a little bit until Okposo went cold. After the way Okposo finished the year last year, he seems to be the best fit at the moment to play with Tavares and Moulson. That line is going to be counted on to score some big goals and play a big role on this hockey team.

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Second Line

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen – Ryan Strome

Normally, this would be the line Okposo would be playing on. He had good chemistry with Bailey and Nielsen, but with Okposo likely to see playing time on the top line, somebody has to take his spot on this line. Enter Ryan Strome. Strome has the talent to make a name for himself in the big leagues, but a lack of experience at this level is what’s got him playing on the second line right now. He would be the perfect guy to take Okposo’s spot on this line for the time being. And this is all pending on how well Strome and Okposo play during camp. There is a chance that if things don’t work out for Okposo on the top line, he could be moved right back down to play with his regular linemates.

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Third Line

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Cal Clutterbuck – Pierre-Marc Bouchard – Michael Grabner

This forward line is going to make for an interesting mix. Grabner, as most hockey observers know, is one of the fastest guys in all of the league. He can score goals too, as he put up 34 in his first year on the Island. Bouchard and Clutterbuck were both brought in during the offseason and could make a nice fit with Grabner. Clutterbuck is the physical presence, who does have a solid scoring touch. Bouchard is a slick playmaking center who can dish off to Grabner, the goal scorer on the line. Not only can these three guys provide offensive jump, but they are just as responsible for play in their own end as well.

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Fourth Line

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Martin – Peter Regin – Colin McDonald

This line is going to be more of a grinder type of line. Matt Martin is the hit king of the league and has no problem throwing his weight around at any time. Same thing with Regin, who can also provide a little bit of a scoring punch. McDonald had a decent season last year, his first with the Islanders. He impressed enough people to be re-signed for this year, so he will have something to prove in that he was worth the signing. Of course there is the possibility of having Regin and Casey Cizikas switching in and out, same thing with McDonald and Eric Boulton. So the fourth line could be in flux during the year, depending on injuries and who the opponent is.

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Defense Pair One

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Hamonic – Andrew MacDonald

These two guys have been great together on the Islanders blue line since they been paired up. Hammer and A-Mac have been the best shut down defensive pair for the Islanders the last number of seasons. They can hit, they can score when needed, and they can cover their own end of the rink. MacDonald will be the more likely of the two to rush the puck up the ice, while Hamonic stays back to take care of his own end. Don’t get me wrong Hamonic has offensive jump too, but he’s more of the stay at home defenseman of the two.

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Defense Pair Two

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Lubomir Visnovsky – Thomas Hickey

With the departure of Mark Streit this summer, somebody on the blue line is going to have to pick up the slack he left off. That guy is, in all likelihood, going to be Visnovsky. He has proved in the past he can score and produce from the blue line, so he will be seeing increased playing time this year. As for who he is paired up with, it’s going to be an interesting case. The best possible partner for Visnovsky is Hickey. Hickey impressed quite a few people around the organization a year ago and was rewarded with another year on his contract. Hickey can skate and move the puck, so if Visnovsky gets caught deep, Hickey can get back in coverage to make up for it. These two guys should work well together.

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Defense Pair Three

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Carkner – Brain Strait

After his play last year in just 19 games, Strait was re-signed to a two year extension, so he must have done something right. For the most part, he was paired up with Mark Streit and he could be paired again with that type of player in Visnovsky, but for the start of the year at least he will be paired up with a more physical partner. Strait can skate and move the puck pretty well, which makes him the ideal offensive defenseman for this unit. As for his partner, Matt Carkner fits the bill right now. Of course there will be changing from time to time between Carkner and Joe Finlay, but Carkner has the experience edge and will get the nod to start. Carkner is the stay at home defenseman that best fits the playing style of Strait at the moment.

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Goaltending

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Evgeni Nabokov – Kevin Poulin

This one was almost a no brainer. When Nabokov was re-signed at the start of free agency, it was a lock he was going to be the team’s starting goalie. The question was who is going to be his backup? With experience on his side, all signs point to Kevin Poulin to taking the backup role. Don’t get me wrong, he could get beat out for the job by young Andres Nilson, but in all likelihood Poulin will be the backup. Nabokov could play about 60-70 games this year, with Poulin playing the other 20-30 games.

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