It is one of the more impressive streaks going in this Islanders-Rangers rivalry and Jaroslav Halak is just happy he gets another crack at the boys in blue Thursday night, though he doesn’t put much stock in the fact that he’s won six straight games for the Isles over the Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano, as is his habit, did not reveal his goaltender for the season opener in Madison Square Garden after Wednesday’s practice. But Halak, who missed Tuesday’s workout with an illness, did skate on Wednesday and pronounced himself fit for the first meeting with Lundqvist and the Rangers in 2016-17.
“I don’t focus on that, I just want to play well and it seems like when we play against each other, it’s worked out that way and I hope tomorrow will be the same way,” Halak said. “It’s a big game for both teams. It might be bigger for us than them.”
This is a big one for Halak, who missed the opening week of last season with a lower-body injury, one of a handful of missed games in a frustration season for the 31-year-old goaltender. His 2015-16 ended on March 8, when he suffered a serious groin injury late in a win over the Penguins. After sitting out the playoffs Halak had hernia surgery in May, further throwing his Islanders future into doubt.
But a stellar World Cup for Team Europe — where he, once again, beat Lundqvist and Sweden in the semifinals — restored the Isles’ faith in Halak and he seems primed to be the No. 1 goaltender the Isles traded for and signed to a four-year, $18 million deal in the summer of 2014.
“You want to be in the lineup first game and I’m glad I’ll be able to,” Halak said. “I’m looking forward to it. Last season didn’t go as planned, but I don’t look at the past. I look forward and I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing again.”
Notes & quotes: Anders Lee, who suffered a broken leg late last season when a Johnny Boychuk slapshot hit him, hobbled off the ice at Wednesday’s practice when a Josh Bailey shot hit Lee in the left ankle. A source indicated Lee was feeling fine, though Capuano was unsure if Lee would be ready for Thursday . . . Anthony Beauvillier, the 19-year-old rookie, skated on the left side of Brock Nelson and Bailey and it appears he will make his NHL debut on Thursday. Fellow 19-year-old Mathew Barzal skated as an extra in practice . . . The Isles named Andrew Ladd, Travis Hamonic and Cal Clutterbuck alternate captains for the season.