1. Is it really a new start for the Islanders?
It better be. The Islanders limped into the season’s pause on an 0-3-4 skid, 2-7-4 after Casey Cizikas (left leg laceration) was hurt and 10-13-7 without Adam Pelech (Achilles tendon). Those two, plus Cal Clutterbuck (left wrist laceration) are back to full strength, giving the Islanders hope they can recapture the consistency they had in a franchise-record 15-0-2 streak from Oct. 12-Nov. 23.
2. Will the Islanders’ penalty kill or Panthers’ power play be better?
There’s no doubt the Panthers have a dangerous power play, driven by Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, who each had 11 man-advantage goals, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Keith Yandle, who tied Hoffman for the team lead with 21 power-play assists. The Panthers’ power play ranked 10th in the NHL during the regular season at 21.3% while the Islanders’ penalty kill ranked 15th at 80.7%. But the Islanders get back key penalty killers in Pelech and Cizikas and Clutterbuck.
3. Who paces the Islanders offensively?
Coach Barry Trotz is comfortable rolling four lines and playing the hot hand(s). But the Islanders' top line of Mathew Barzal between captain Anders Lee and right wing Jordan Eberle must be productive for the Islanders’ long-term success.