Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders skates against...

Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders skates against the Boston Bruins at UBS Arena on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2024 in Elmont, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

RALEIGH, N.C. — Patrick Roy knows what others are thinking as the Islanders open their first-round rematch against the Hurricanes on Saturday at PNC Arena. And it doesn’t matter one bit to the coach, just as it didn’t when the Canadiens overcame low expectations to win the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1993 with Roy in net.

The Hurricanes beat the Islanders in six games in last season’s first round. Getting through the first round often can be the toughest task.

“Especially for the favored team,” Roy said after Friday’s 30-minute practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “There’s a lot of expectation.

“I’m sure if you ask around — ‘Who’s favored to win this series?’ — everybody is going to say the Hurricanes. They’ll say, ‘The only chance the Islanders have is if the goalies outplay the other goalie.’ But I do believe that our team has been playing very well. We’re probably one of the better teams in the league right now in the last 10 games.”

The Islanders, who ended the season on an 8-0-1 run to finish third in the Metropolitan Division, 17 points behind the second-place Hurricanes, got mixed injury news on Friday. Third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (lower body/day-to-day) did not practice after exiting Wednesday night’s 5-4 win over the Penguins at UBS Arena.

But top-pair defenseman Noah Dobson practiced and is expected to play on Saturday after missing the final three games with an upper-body injury.

“When you leave a game and you miss three games to finish the year, you have that high concern with what was coming with the playoffs,” said Dobson, who exited in the first period of a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Canadiens on April 11. “But I just tried to focus on doing whatever I can to get myself ready. It’s been a day-by-day thing. I’m just happy to be feeling a little better where I was able to come out and join the group.”

Dobson skated with usual defense partner Alexander Romanov but was not reinserted on the first power-play unit he’s quarterbacked all season. Instead, defenseman Mike Reilly continued to work in that spot.

Roy said it was partially to ease the righthanded-shooting Dobson’s transition back into the lineup. He also noted that the left-shooting Reilly and the right-shooting Mathew Barzal, working on the left half-wall, could be in better positions for one-timers working together.

With Pageau absent, rookie center Kyle MacLean was elevated to his spot between Anders Lee and Pierre Engvall. Cal Clutterbuck slid from right wing to center a fourth line with Matt Martin and Simon Holmstrom.

“I’m not sure myself what’s going to happen in terms of lines,” MacLean said. “Either way, it’s a great opportunity with two great players. Great guys as well. It’ll be a little different not seeing Cal and Matt on my wings. I’m excited either way, wherever I am, to help out and play with whoever.”

Missing Pageau, who plays on the power play and the penalty kill and led the Islanders by winning 55.4% of his faceoffs, would impact their chances against the dangerous Hurricanes.

Lee, however, said the Islanders are used to facing long odds.

“I don’t know when we’ve ever not been the underdog,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t say we pay attention to that stuff. I think we just feel it. But based on the team that they’ve had this year and the way we’re coming in, it makes sense.”

Notes & quotes: Roy confirmed that goalie Semyon Varlamov will start Game 1 and was asked if he expects to use Ilya Sorokin in the series. “It’s a good question, but as of now, we’re going with Varly,” Roy said . . . The Islanders signed goalie Henrik Tikkanen, a seventh-round pick in 2020, and left wing Alex Jefferies, a fourth-round pick in 2020, to two-year, entry-level deals that begin next season. Both played a handful of games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport this season . . . Lee said he was a late scratch for Wednesday’s season finale — which snapped his ironman streak at 193 games — as his wife, Grace, gave birth to the couple’s third child and first son.

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