The Islanders have been eager to get going this season, especially the regulars who haven't even played a preseason game in nearly two weeks.
On Friday night, they get the whole deal -- season opener, debut in Brooklyn at Barclays Center and a visit from the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
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All that without No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak practiced for a third straight day Thursday, but the long layoff that preceded this week seems certain to keep the team's top goaltender out at least through the first three games, which are Friday night at home against the Blackhawks, Saturday night in Chicago and Monday afternoon at home against the Jets.StoryIsles to honor Al Arbour before opener
"I feel better, I'm getting there . . . Hopefully, I'll be back soon," Halak said after practice at IceWorks in Syosset. "I'm trying to do as much as I can to get my conditioning back where it needs to be."
However, missing nearly two weeks of training camp is a worry for any player, even a goaltender. The Islanders' newest addition in net, J-F Berube, practiced for the first time since being claimed off waivers from the Kings on Tuesday.
"Everyone wants to be on the big club, I was working hard for that and now I have an opportunity here," said Berube, who will back up Thomas Greiss Friday night. "I just want to be ready when they call for me."
It's not an ideal goaltending situation, but the rest of the Islanders are focused on starting the season regardless. With six of their eight preseason games squeezed into a six-day span, and four of those being split-squad games played at the same time, the Islanders' familiar faces were rarely on the ice together through September.
"It'll be fine," Johnny Boychuk said. "Today, we just pushed a little harder, pushed the pace a little more to try and get it up to game speed. We haven't played games for a bit here."
What the Islanders were able to do through three home preseason games is get their off-ice, game-day routines down. John Tavares has been vocally leading the LIRR charge to get to Barclays Center, the ice has gotten a few workouts and the players are learning the quirks of the boards and glass.
"You get used to it, same way you get used to getting to games at the Coliseum," Tavares said. "We've just been excited to get going here since pretty much last season ended."
There will be plenty of fanfare to officially open Barclays Center for a game that counts, replete with special guests and a pregame video to honor Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour, who died in August.
Getting the Blackhawks home-and-home to start is a big task.
Said coach Jack Capuano, "You couldn't ask for a tougher team to play against."