This might be the strangest entry in the bitter Islanders-Rangers rivalry.
The NHL on Tuesday released its schedule for exhibition games and the start times for the first three games of the best-of-five qualifying series under the league’s return-to-play format. The season was paused on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New York rivals will play an exhibition game on July 29 at 8 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference as 12 teams will be in a quarantined arena/hotel bubble.
But that will be it for warmup games before the first elimination round begins.
The seventh-seeded Islanders open their qualifying series against the 10th-seeded Panthers on Aug. 1 at 4 p.m. Game 2 will be Aug. 4 at noon and Game 3 will be on Aug. 5 at noon.
Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be on Aug. 7 and Aug. 9 with no faceoff times set yet.
The 11th-seeded Rangers will open their qualifying series against the sixth-seeded Hurricanes on Aug. 1 at noon. Game 2 will be Aug. 3 at noon and Game 3 will be Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be on Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 at times still to be determined.
The higher seed will be the designated home team for Games 1, 2 and 5.
Rookie Kieffer Bellows, who had 21 goals over his final 33 games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, skated with the second group after missing Monday’s practice…Goalie Jakub Skarek, defensemen Nick Leddy and Sebastian Aho and forward Leo Komarov remained absent. NHL guidelines now forbid teams from releasing specific information on practice or game absences…Defenseman Scott Mayfield and Matt Martin also did not participate. Martin’s wife, Sydney, is expecting the couple’s first child. “Marty has got some personal stuff,” Trotz said. “It’s all positive.”