RALEIGH, N.C. — The Hurricanes swept the Islanders in the second round of last season’s playoffs and have kept on winning to start this season. The Islanders have struggled through their first three games and are coming off a lazy effort that still had coach Barry Trotz upset two days later.
That confluence has heightened the importance of Friday night’s playoff rematch at PNC Arena.
“We have something to prove,” right wing Jordan Eberle said. “I know it’s a new season. But that’s in the back of our minds for sure. You look at the way the season started for us, you look at the way it started for them. This is a must-win for us.”
The Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division at 4-0-0, outscored the Islanders, 13-5, in the second round and won Games 3 and 4 at Carolina by twin 5-2 scores. The Islanders had swept the Penguins in the first round.
“You move on from it, but I don’t think you ever forget it,” captain Anders Lee said. “It’s a big game for us regardless of who we’re playing. The fact that it’s Carolina and they’re doing pretty good right now and we’re on the other side of that, I think it’s a huge game for us. We’re not happy with how we looked the last time we were on the ice.”
The Islanders ended their 1-2-0 season-opening homestand with a 5-2 dud of a loss to the Oilers in which they were surprisingly soft in their physical battles.
Tuesday night’s clunker is a more immediate concern than the playoff sweep to Trotz.
“There’s always a sting when you lose to a team in the playoffs, there’s a little bit of a stink,” Trotz said. “It’s not as bad as the odor we had in the last game. If it gives us some extra motivation, great. But I’m just worried abut the present because we’ve got to get our game a little bit in order.”
Trotz said immediately after Tuesday’s loss he was considering, “a lot of changes with guys that aren’t working hard.” At Thursday’s practice in East Meadow, Trotz inserted the scrappy and versatile Tom Kuhnhackl, a healthy scratch the first three games, onto Brock Nelson’s second line with Josh Bailey. That’s where Michael Dal Colle skated the first three games, at least until Trotz put his lines through the blender starting with the second period on Tuesday.
“Tommy will be in but not necessarily on that line,” Trotz said. “I have a lot of confidence in the guys that aren’t playing so I’m going to try and filter some of those guys in.”
It’s also possible Trotz could move Anthony Beauvillier, leading the team with two goals and two assists, off Derick Brassard’s line and put him in Dal Colle’s spot.
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Nick Leddy and center Casey Cizikas were given maintenance days off from Thursday’s practice but Trotz said he expects both to be available against the Hurricanes. It’s the second practice Cizikas has missed for maintenance.