Jack Capuano said Friday morning that the Islanders’ game with the Predators on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum is “a big game for a few guys.”
He wouldn’t elaborate, as usual, but let’s take a look at the evidence from this preseason to see who needs to have a productive night:
Like any rookie, Donovan needs to take advantage of an opportunity in a game. He’s definitely got the lead in the chase for a top-six defense spot on opening night -- which is just a week away -- but he still could do with a standout night against a very tight, structured team in Nashville.
He began camp where he finished last regular season, as part of a defensive pair with Lubomir Visnovsky, but Hickey has only played two of the five preseason games thus far, and only one with Visnovsky. Griffin Reinhart, the talented 19-year-old, paired with Visnovsky in Brooklyn. So Hickey, who had a strong regular season but a less-than-productive playoff series a year ago, may be the odd man out if he can’t show he’s ahead of Reinhart.
He hasn’t drawn much attention so far this camp, stuck on the wing depth chart behind fellow prospect Brock Nelson. But Lee gets a chance on Friday night, playing in Kyle Okposo’s spot on a line with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner. This is Lee’s biggest opportunity of camp. He’s in the final season of his two-year deal and if he can’t break through, his Islanders tenure may end with just a couple of games played.
The biggest-name free agent (of only two, to be fair) the Isles added this season, Bouchard was supposed to fill the PA Parenteau/Brad Boyes veteran role alongside Matt Moulson and John Tavares. That camp line lasted only two games and now Bouchard skates on the third line Friday with Peter Regin and Nelson. Bouchard also has been working with the power play as one of the point men, and the PP has yet to jell.
Capuano said Okposo (eye) has been cleared to practice, which he did at IceWorks on Friday. If all goes well from that, Okposo should be able to play in one of the final two preseason games, split-squad contests with the Senators in Ottawa and Barrie, Ont., on Sunday.
Evgeni Nabokov is slated to play the full game on Friday.