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Heading into Isles' first preseason game . . .
A few notes on the first preseason gameday, with the team in Regina and Calgary and me... not.
-- We’ll have line combos and defense pairings after the Isles skate in Regina later this morning (both game rosters are skating in Regina, then the Calgary group is flying there). But you can assume that Jack Capuano will stick with the lines he drew up for the first four days of training camp, at least to start the games.
So Tuesday night will be the first experience for Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the right side with Matt Moulson and John Tavares and the first time for the Michael Grabner-Peter Regin-Cal Clutterbuck trio. 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.
As for defense, Brian Strait-Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey-Lubomir Visnovsky will start the night together. Strait-Hamonic may end up being the opening night top pair, sent out to contain opposing top lines with what Capuano is hoping will be a bit more physical presence from the left side.
For those fans interested (as I am) in advanced stats, the Isles are using them to assess defensive pairings, and they came away with the idea of splitting Andrew MacDonald and Hamonic. Neither defenseman seems terribly excited by the idea -- he never said so, but I presume MacDonald’s being against it partially stems from the fact that this is a contract year for him, so the more quality minutes for him the better -- but we’ll see if analytics pay off.
MacDonald likely will start Tuesday night and be paired with Matt Donovan, who has the inside track for earning a top-six spot.
-- The game in Calgary will be streamed on the Flames’ website. The game in Regina will not, so we’ll all be in the dark for a bit.
-- I would expect a very prospect-heavy lineup for Thursday’s game with the Devils in Newark. Teams still have to play at least NHL veterans in each game, but with the big show in Brooklyn coming Saturday in this week of five games, I doubt Capuano will put any of his top players out in Jersey.