The Islanders returned from a brief getaway to Annapolis, Maryland and the Naval Academy Wednesday with one big question still remaining before tomorrow night's season opener at Barclays Center against the Blackhawks.
What's the deal with Jaroslav Halak?
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"He got a good sweat in the past couple days down there, he did a lot of work, he was on the ice early," coach Jack Capuano said of Halak, who practiced the past two days at John McMullen Arena on the Naval Academy campus after missing two weeks with an unspecified upper body injury. "We'll have to see how he feels tomorrow and then tie it all together."VideoLeaving LI: Isles' last season at Nassau ColiseumStoryJiggs McDonald to call first 3 Isles games
The Isles' No. 1 goaltender has missed a lot of prep time in training camp with this injury -- it limited him to two periods' worth of preseason work, and that was back on Sept. 21.
If he were a skater and not a goaltender, there'd be no doubt that he would miss at least the first few games of the season because his conditioning would be so behind. Whether that's true for a goaltender remains to be seen.
"That's exactly the question we'll talk to him about," Capuano said. "You don't want to rush things, especially with a guy in that important position for us."
That sort of caution would lead one to think that Thomas Greiss will make his Islanders debut tomorrow night and J-F Berube, claimed off waivers from the Kings on Tuesday, could make his NHL debut the next night in Chicago.
The goaltending is an enormous mystery, but the Islanders have very few other questions about their opening night lineup. Capuano set his forward lines early in camp and, though the group of 12 never played together in any of the eight preseason games, the four lines rotated through and showed the coach all he needed to see.
"There's a good chance we'll keep them together to start," said the usually coy Capuano, which makes that quote about as close to a guarantee as he will give. "I thought each line had some chemistry and generated offense. When they're all out there together I feel good about our offense."
John Tavares will begin the season with Anders Lee and Ryan Strome on his wings. The other lines are: Brock Nelson-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolay Kulemin; Josh Bailey-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck.
On defense, the Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan-Travis Hamonic pairs have been set since day one of camp. Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky likely will start the season as the third pair, with Thomas Hickey on injured reserve and rookie Ryan Pulock likely the extra defenseman for opening night.
"We didn't make a lot of changes this offseason because we have faith and trust in the guys we have," Capuano said. "Now it's time to show what we've got."