On Wednesday’s last practice before the start of the NHL season, Arthur Staple of Newsday tweeted out the New York Islanders practice lines:
Same #Isles lines as yesterday in today's practice: 16-91-25, 27-18-11, 72-29-12, 86-53-15. 10 and 13 extras.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 12, 2016
Normally, fans do well not to read too heavily into these. However, on the day before the first game of the season the top line of Andrew Ladd, John Tavares and Jason Chimera has fans scratching their heads.
The Islanders open their season against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. ET.
Chimera Joins The 1st Line
Yes, you did read that correctly. Jason Chimera, the former Washington Capitals agitator, who was signed to replace former Isles agitator Matt Martin, is probably going to get top line minutes with John Tavares. When asked about his new top line coach Jack Capuano said it’s “just to try it.”
Whether Chimera actually is on the top line will remain to be seen until Thursday night, but the fact that this line has been practicing for sometime now strongly hints that the lines used will be the lines we see once the puck drops at MSG.
At 37, Chimera is a player who has defied father time, he skates around with the young guys, has softer hands than he gets credit for and can create a lot of space for Ladd and Tavares to get more freedom. Maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all, it remains to be seen.
Retooling The Energy Line
With Chimera skating on the first line, the fourth line slot has been filled in by Nikolai Kulemin. Kulemin drastically changes the dynamic of Cizikas and Clutterbuck, who both are far more dynamic that their face value “fourth line” role alludes to. With Kulemin skating alongside the two, expect the fourth line to contribute more to the offense this season. This will be a very interesting line to keep an eye on.
2nd & 3rd Lines
Other notable combinations include Ryan Strome moving to the second line center and moving Brock Nelson to the third line. Strome is skating with Lee and Prince while Nelson is paired with Beauvillier on the left and Bailey on the right side. Anthony Beauvillier will be an interesting prospect to watch tonight, he has been praised for his two-way game on the powerplay and on the penalty kill. With the team in need of someone to fill the enourmous void left by Nielsen, Capuano is seeing if Beauvillier can stay past his nine game tryout.
Projected Islanders lineup:
Ladd – Tavares – Chimera
Lee – Strome – Prince
Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
Kulemin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Leddy – Hamonic
Hickey – Boychuk
deHaan – Seidenberg