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Isles lines and pairings for preseason debut
With the morning skates underway in Saskatchewan, here are the lines, defense pairs and goaltenders for each of the Isles’ split-squad games Tuesday night:
A few things to take away from these groupings:
-- Donovan gets first shot at teaming with MacDonald to see what sort of chemistry can form there. Donovan told me on Monday that his productive AHL seasons, 45 points (fourth among defensemen) in 2011-12 and 48 points (tied for first) in 2012-13 were the result of “focusing on my defense first. I realized pretty quick that if I made sure of my defensive assignments, the points and the offense would just grow naturally out of that.”
Jack Capuano needs more offense from all his defensemen with Mark Streit gone, especially on the power play; MacDonald and Donovan will likely man the PP points in Calgary, so we’ll see what they have to offer. Calvin de Haan will get his chance as well; I’d imagine he’ll team with MacDonald later in the week.
-- Lee-Nelson-Strome could very well be Bridgeport’s opening-night top line. There doesn’t seem to be much room on either wing among the NHL veterans, so I doubt either Lee or Strome starts the season with the big club. Nelson is essentially competing with Peter Regin to be the No. 3 center and that will be a battle to the end of the week, if not beyond.
Some folks do very much want to see Strome and Nelson in Isles uniforms on Oct. 4. I understand that desire. But neither will turn into a Nino Niederreiter situation and the Islanders are simply a deeper team now than they were even in last year’s training camp, so the prospects will have to wait their turn. It will come this season, no doubt, but waiting is part of how good, deep teams operate.
-- Goaltending will be big this week. Not for Evgeni Nabokov, who is the opening night starter barring an unforeseen circumstance, but for Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson. One of them has to seize the moments afforded this week with loads of playing opportunities. If they both play well, even better for the Isles, but now’s the time to show something.