Here is the roster for Thursday night's Islanders-Devils game in Newark:
Josh Bailey-Alan Quine-Colin McDonald
Anders Lee-Frans Nielsen-Ryan Strome
Cory Conacher-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolay Kulemin
Eric Boulton-Kael Mouillierat-Mike Halmo
Thomas Hickey-Travis Hamonic
Aaron Ness-Scott Mayfield
Griffin Reinhart-Brian Strait
Jaroslav Halak/Chad Johnson
What does it all mean?
The Lee-Nielsen-Strome line could be one to watch. If Strome can find some chemistry on Nielsen's right, that bodes well for him earning a spot out of camp. That would mean Strome has to do some physical work along the walls and show the sort of "battle level" that Jack Capuano always likes to see.
If Strome can do that, and if he can form a solid two-way tandem with Nielsen, then Strome could very well find himself on that presumptive third line opening night.
Lee has a shot to impress as well, and he too could earn an opening-night spot with a strong showing. He's had a middle-of-the-road camp, which is never good for a player that doesn't need waivers. He wouldn't be hurt by bouncing around the left side if the Isles needed him in different spots.
Bailey is not exactly getting a prime-time look Thursday night, which seems to be yet another example of the staff trying to light a fire under him. If Lee shines and Bailey does not in what one would assume is their last preseason game, Lee could take Bailey's spot on the third line opening night.
The Conacher-Grabovski-Kulemin trio gets a second look. Its first look, last week at the Coliseum, was a bit of an eyesore, but Conacher played a feisty game on Tuesday in Boston and has earned another crack at this top nine spot. We'll see what he does with it.
As for who's not in, it's quite clear that Capuano will have Brock Nelson with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on Friday night against the Bruins in Bridgeport. Without any evidence that there's a better option to work with Tavares and Okposo, this likely will be the first line on the ice in Raleigh a week from Friday.
Hickey and Hamonic are missing their regular partners, so it's worth a look to see how they play together in case it's a needed pairing later on.
Reinhart gets another chance to face an opponent's NHL regulars -- the Devils are starting what may closely resemble their opening-night forward group -- and thus try to win a spot that seemed to be his when camp began.
Capuano said Thursday morning that Halak will play the full game Thursday night. Halak wasn't thrilled with his last full game, the 4-2 loss to Carolina last week, so he's had plenty of time to sharpen his skills.