It’s that time of year again: preseason hockey is about to get underway in the NHL. After the first week or so of camp, the New York Islanders are set to go with their first preseason game, a split squad game against the Calgary Flames tonight.
Half of the teams will be playing in Calgary, while the other half will be playing in Regina, Saskatchewan, the Islanders’ training camp home. With 51 players in camp for the Islanders, there isn’t much room for all of them to play in the split squad game tonight. That being said, the lineups that head coach Jack Capuano has set for the two games look really interesting on paper.
The Islanders are slated to play eight games during this preseason, which is valuable for both the coaching staff and the players. It gives everybody a chance to see the team in competitive action. It is the perfect chance for the young guys to step up, and for everybody to mesh together to see how line combinations are going to work. They might only get this run of preseason games over the next two weeks to decide their lineup for this season, barring any unforeseen injuries, of course.
According to reports from Newsday’s Arthur Staple, there are some good line combos for this evening’s action. It looks as if Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be playing on the right side with Matt Moulson and John Tavares, and the Michael Grabner–Peter Regin–Cal Clutterbuck trio will make its first appearance.
The Josh Bailey–Frans Nielsen–Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin–Casey Cizikas–Colin McDonald lines from last season will also likely start off together Tuesday night in their respective games. Again, this isn’t set in stone, this is just what some of the lines might look like.
As for defense, Brian Strait–Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey–Lubomir Visnovsky will start the night together. Strait-Hamonic may end up being the top pair on opening night sent out to contain opposing top lines, with what Capuano is hoping will be a bit more physical presence from the left side.
What makes this so interesting is that the coaching staff might put Bouchard on the top line with Tavares and Moulson, instead of, say, somebody like Ryan Strome. For some reason, I could have seen Strome being the perfect fit to play with Moulson and Tavares, but that could be just me and I only go by what I see on TV and hear on the radio.
Things are starting to take shape a bit for this season, so lets just wait and see how things play out on the ice tonight.