The Islanders opened their 50th anniversary season with a pregame ceremony before losing 3-1 to the Panthers on Thursday night at UBS Arena.
Former captain Ed Westfall, a member of the inaugural Islanders’ squad in 1972-73 that finished 12-60-6, dropped the ceremonial first puck.
“The hardest part was getting through that season,” Westfall told Newsday in July. “A lot of the young players were coming from AHL teams and were pretty good at that level and not used to losing.”
Longtime Islander Matt Martin said the pregame ceremony just made a special night even more so.
“There’s a lot of things going on with this one that’s going to make it special with 50 years,” Martin said. “Just the emotion in the building. The fans are excited to be back. And to be able to start the year at home, I feel we haven’t done that in a while.”
The Islanders opened last season with a 13-game road trip while construction at UBS Arena was completed.
Kieffer Bellows started on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line and Nikita Soshnikov completed the fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin. That left Oliver Wahlstrom out of the lineup after he returned to practice on Monday from an unspecified issue.
Meanwhile, Cal Clutterbuck (injured reserve/shoulder soreness) again worked with the team during Thursday’s morning skate.
“Both [Wahlstrom] and Cal Clutterbuck are coming back and progressing from things they had that kept them out of training camp,” Lambert said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing them back in the lineup soon.”
Lambert offered no timetable on their returns.
Defenseman Sebastian Aho and Ross Johnston were the healthy scratches…Defenseman Robin Salo was a minus-2, blocked two shots and took two second-period penalties in 11:28 on his 24th birthday…Defenseman Noah Dobson took a game-high six shots.