The Slate: Rangers and Islanders Open against Each Other for Second Time Ever, Pens Hang Banner

A look at what to look for on Thursday night around the NHL.

New York Islanders at New York Rangers, 7

Head-to-head (2015-16): 4-0 Islanders

Rangers player to watch: Chris Kreider; Five points in four preseason games, looking like the impact player who bursted on the scene in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Islanders player to watch: Jason Chimera; He’s the latest man to the right of John Tavares in the search for Kyle Okposo’s replacement.

Storylines

Islanders remain a work in progress offensively.

A new year, new start for the Rangers. And Larry Brooks’s take in the New York Post.

Wall Street Journal gives a good look into the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils going into the season.

Notable games in the history of the Rangers-Islanders rivalry.

Quick Hitters

*This is the second time the two teams have opened the season against each other. The other came in 1997, a 2-2 tie.

*The Islanders swept the season series from the Rangers for the first time last season. The Rangers have swept three times; 1972-73, ’98-99, and ’03-04.

*The Islanders have taken the season series each of the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 2006-07 and ’07-08.

*John Tavares has 13 goals and 33 points in 35 career games against the Rangers.

Boston at Columbus, 7

Head-to-head (2015-16): 2-1 Boston

Boston player to watch: Austin Czarnik; The former Miami (Ohio) standout suffered a concussion in Boston’s final preseason game, on Saturday, but is expected to be in the lineup. With Patrice Bergeron hurt, his role becomes even more crucial.

Columbus player to watch: Zach Werenski; Much has been made of the promising rookie defenseman in the offseason. He’s expected to take big minutes alongside Seth Jones.

Storylines

Coming off a standout performance at the World Cup and the signing of an eight-year extension, the secret is out – Brad Marchand is an elite talent.

Patrice Bergeron out with lower-body injury.

Zach Werenski to be the point man on the Jackets powerplay.

Quick Hitters

*This is the first time the Bruins have opened away from the TD Garden since 2010-11, when the B’s began the season against the then-Phoenix Coyotes on neutral ice in Prague.

*The Bruins have won 13 of 21 games against the Blue Jackets since Columbus’s inception into the league in 2000. The 2.43 goals allowed per game is the second-lowest for any opponent for the Bruins. Only Nashville has scored fewer (2.39).

*The Blue Jackets have beaten the Bruins just six times in regulation.

*Czarnik played college hockey at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His 169 career points is tied for fifth in program history.

Montreal at Buffalo, 7

Head-to-head: Montreal 3-2

Montreal player to watch: Shea Weber; Making his Canadiens debut, the big defenseman will add a presence to the ice no Montreal blue liner has had in some time.

Buffalo player to watch: Rasmus Ristolainen; Now a rich man with a six-year contract extension, the Finnish defenseman should make the next leap forward

Storylines

Big things expected from former second overall pick Sam Reinhart.

Carey Price to miss Thursday’s game as he continues to fight the flu.

Jack Eichel to miss time with high ankle sprain.

John Vogl of the Buffalo News explains why a Sabres return to the postseason next spring isn’t unreasonable.

Shea Weber and his growth into a ‘man mountain’.

Quick Hitters

*The Sabres finished 8-3-2 in their final 13 games; 14-8-5 in their final 27.

*Buffalo’s 81 points last season was its highest total since 2011-12, when the Sabres put up 89.

*Montreal’s sixth place finish in the Atlantic Division was the lowest ever for the Habs in the NHL’s divisional era.

New Jersey at Florida, 7:30

Head-to-head (2015-16): Florida 2-1

Devils player to watch: Taylor Hall; Newly acquired from Edmonton, the former first overall pick is expected to give boost to New Jersey offense, which was 30th in the NHL with 2.22 goals per game last season.

Panthers player to watch: Make this players; the Panthers rebuilt its defense to resemble a unit predicated on speed and pace. Will it pay off?

Storylines

Could the Devils be a surprise playoff team?

Taylor Hall the face of the Ray Shero-led transition into the new NHL age in Jersey. Long live the left-wing lock.

The Panthers will pay tribute to late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident last month.

Quick Hitters

*The Panthers have come out with at least a point in each of its last five openers (4-0-1).

*Jaromir Jagr’s 27 goals last season was his highest total since 2006-07, when he scored 30 for the Rangers in his second-to-last season before ditching Broadway for the KHL, a stint that lasted three seasons. He also had the fifth-highest shooting percentage in the league at 18.88 percent, the third-highest of his career and greatest since 1996-97, when he scored 47 goals on 20.1 percent shooting for the Penguins.

*Since moving to New Jersey, the Devils have missed the playoffs five years a row just one time; the B.L. (Before Lamoriello) years of 1983-87.

Detroit at Tampa Bay, 7:30

Head-to-head (2015-16): 2-2

Red Wings player to watch: Frans Nielsen; Coming off a big showing in the World Cup for Team Europe.

Lightning player to watch: Tyler Johnson; Johnson’s 2015-16 season was slowed by injuries. A healthy season should allow him to surpass the production of 2013-14 and ’14-15, in which he scored 53 goals over those two seasons.

Storylines

Here’s something you’re not hearing everywhere – the Red Wings might be better than they were last season. Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News explains how.

ICYMI: Nikita Kucherov signs a three-year extension to remain in Tampa Bay.

Quick Hitters

*The Red Wings haven’t won a playoff series since joining the Eastern Conference in 2013.

*Niklas Kronwall (22:00 average ice-time) had the second-lowest allotment of time on ice among players to lead their team in ice time.

*The Lightning have won a division title since its Stanley Cup-winning season of 2003-04.

Carolina at Winnipeg, 8

Head-to-head (2015-16): 2-0 Carolina

Hurricanes player to watch: Noah Hanifin; the fifth overall pick in 2015 is expected to make a big jump in his second season.

Jets player to watch: Blake Wheeler; he’s got the ‘C’ on his chest now.

Storylines

The Jets going through a ‘slow and steady’ build.

Quick Hitters

*Mark Scheifele had 34 points in his final 26 games to end last season.

*Two members of the late Southeast Division (Winnipeg was in Atlanta from 1999-2011), the two teams have combined for just two playoff appearances since 2007.

Minnesota at St. Louis, 8

Head-to-Head (2015-16): St. Louis 3-2

Wild player to watch: Jared Spurgeon; Broke 22 minutes for the third straight year last season; his career-high 22:41 in 2015-16 was second-highest on the Wild behind workhorse Ryan Suter.

Blues player to watch: Paul Stastny; took a team-high 24 faceoffs and was 7-for-10 on defensive zone draws in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Chicago. Also potted two goals and three points.

Storylines

 

Former Wild coach Mike Yeo, now an associate head coach in St. Louis, reflects upon his five seasons in Minnesota.

Quick Hitters

*The Blues were 8-4 last season on the second night of back-to-backs.

*This is the first time St. Louis has opened with a back-to-back since 2009; that year the Blues started 2-0, but missed the playoffs.

*Minnesota’s 87 points last season broke up a two-year streak of 90 points.

Washington at Pittsburgh, 8

Head-to-head (2015-16): 3-2 Pittsburgh

Capitals player to watch: Evgeny Kuznetsov; Had a breakout season with a team-high 77 points. Can he follow it up with another strong season?

Penguins player to watch: Marc-Andre Fleury; lots riding on the Penguins netminder this season.

Storylines

With Matt Murray down to begin the season, Marc-Andre Fleury gets a chance to regain the Pittsburgh crease.

Of course, no Sidney Crosby tonight.

On the business side of things: The Penguins are no longer up for sale.

Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov create a 1-1A tandem up the middle in Washington.

Recovering pugilist Tom Wilson continues to expand his offensive game.

Quick Hitters

*Of the nine teams in NHL history to assemble 120 points in a season, Alex Ovechkin has played on two of them. Still needs that Stanley Cup, though.

*This is the first time the two teams open up against each other during the Crosby/Ovechkin era.

*Marc-Andre Fleury’s 353 wins since the 2004-05 lockout is third-most behind Henrik Lundqvist (374) and Roberto Luongo (356).

Anaheim at Dallas, 8:30

Head-to-head (2015-16): 2-1 Anaheim

Ducks player to watch: John Gibson; the Anaheim crease is now his.

Stars player to watch: John Klingberg; he should take another step forward this season on his way to being an elite NHL d-man.

Storylines

Is the window running out on the Getzlaf-Perry-Kesler contingent?

The Ducks try to blend braun with speed in 2016-17.

Tyler Seguin looking to put past injuries behind him.

Quick Hitters

*The Ducks were 24th in five-on-five scoring last season.

*Corey Perry needs five points to tie Paul Kariya for third place on the Ducks all-time list.

*Ryan Getzlaf is second on that list.

*The Stars 109 points last season was the highest since 2005-06, when Dallas finished with 112.

*Dallas hasn’t made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since qualifying five years in a row from 2003-08.

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