It’s been a long six weeks since Andrei Svechnikov went down and the Hurricanes’ already thin goal-scoring prowess became even more shaky, but tonight, the switch gets flipped and the Hurricanes start their postseason run looking to make a deep playoff run similar to the last time they faced the New York Islanders, four seasons ago.
Over the past three weeks, since Antti Raanta returned from injury, the Hurricanes have rotated between him and Frederik Andersen, essentially auditioning both to see who would get the net when the playoffs started. Raanta was the more dependable of the two, so it’s no surprise to see that he will be the Game 1 starter.
The Hurricanes had a limited skate this morning but one of the players who did skate was Jesse Puljujarvi, perhaps indicating that he will yield to Derek Stepan in the lineup tonight. Stepan was a healthy scratch for the Canes’ final two regular season games.
Other than that, things should look familiar, and the lineup that won the Metro with wins in their last two games of the season will be the one that starts Game 1 tonight:
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Stefan Noesen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jack Drury - Paul Stastny - Derek Stepan
Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jalen Chatfield
Injuries and Scratches: Pyotr Kochetkov (EBUG), Calvin de Haan (healthy), Dylan Coghlan (healthy), Jesse Puljujarvi (healthy), Max Pacioretty (LTIR Achilles), Andrei Svechnikov (LTIR knee), Ondrej Kase (LTIR concussion)
The big news for the Islanders is that one of their prime goal-scoring threats, Mathew Barzal, is set to return tonight after being out for the past two months with a lower-body injury. Barzal has 38 points in 49 games this season, and scored two goals in 2019 when the Islanders were swept by the Hurricanes in the second round.
Ten players remain from that 2019 Islanders squad, so there will be plenty of familiarity. None of those players, however, scored more than two points against the Hurricanes in that series, and the most dangerous scorer (at least in terms of past playoff performance against Carolina) is actually Zach Parise, who has eight points in 12 career playoff games against the Hurricanes, all of which came in either 2006 or 2009 — so it’s been a while, is what I’m saying.
The Islanders will look different up front with Barzal back, but in net, it’s no surprise: this is Ilya Sorokin’s show. Here’s how the Islanders will line up:
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise - J.G. Pageau - Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho - Scott Mayfield
Samuel Bolduc - Noah Dobson
Injuries and Scratches: Josh Bailey (healthy), Simon Holmstrom (healthy), Ross Johnston (healthy), Parker Wotherspoon (healthy), Alexander Romanov (upper body), Oliver Wahlstrom (IR lower body)
Referees: Jon McIsaac #2, Gord Dwyer #19
Linesmen: Ryan Gibbons #58, David Brisebois #96
Standby officials: Brian Pochmara #16 (referee), Julien Fournier #56 (linesman)