Few teams had a more head-scratching offseason of personnel decisions than the Carolina Hurricanes, who flushed their goaltending and let the top free-agent target leave for a division rival.
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders will have to wait a while to open their new home rink, UBS Arena, as they start the season with a 13-game road trip.
As the two take to the ice Thursday night, the march to the playoffs is set to begin. The puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ so make sure to place your sport bets before that!
Islanders are Road Warriors
Starting the season with an extended road trip will be a considerable test for the Islanders; success will galvanize the team, but ugly outcomes could set a bad tone for the rest of the season. New York will play its first home game on Nov. 20 against the Calgary Flames.
The journey is the longest to begin a season and is the second-longest road trip in NHL history. That honor goes to the Vancouver Canucks, who played 14 consecutive road games while Vancouver was hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010.
“It’s going to be challenging, but we have to look at the glass half full,” Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said. “The arena will not be open until our opening date that we have scheduled, that’s a guaranteed date. There had to be some flexibility if there were a little bit of a delay. That really made a decision for the league. We had to be on the road because not only us starting late, but the preparation for the Olympics inclusive of an All-Star Game.
“I think all of us have difficult schedules, but ours (is) certainly more difficult than most.”
Semyon Varlamov is questionable while dealing with an undisclosed injury. In 2021, Varlamov tied for the league lead in shutouts (seven) while posting a 19-11-4 record. He also had a 2.04 GAA and a .929 save percentage (second in save percentage, fourth in GAA). The latest NHL futures odds have Varlamov at +1400 to win the Vezina Trophy in 2022.
If Varlamov cannot go, second-year netminder Ilya Sorokin would get the nod. Last season, Sorokin put up a 13-6-3 record, a 2.17 GAA, a .918 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Matt Martin is the only other player listed on the injury report. Martin will miss the opener while dealing with an ankle injury.
New-Look Hurricanes Hope Drama is Behind Them
Like the Islanders, the Hurricanes are making a push for the postseason and underwent a significant roster shakeup to press onward towards that goal. The latest Las Vegas odds have Carolina at +1400 to win the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes traded Calder finalist Alex Nedeljkovic to Detroit for Jonathan Bernier and a 2021 third-round pick. Then, they let Bernier, Petr Mrazek, and James Reimer walk in free agency.
Needing a netminder, Carolina signed Frederik Andersen, who was previously with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Andersen has a career 226-100-48 record, a 2.65 GAA, a .915 save percentage, and 19 shutouts. He is expected to start.
Losing Dougie Hamilton in free agency will likely come back to haunt, but through trades and signings, the Hurricanes brought in Ethan Bear, Ian Cole, and Tony DeAngelo in an effort to make up for Hamilton. DeAngelo’s signing was controversial, as the 25-year-old was bought out by the Rangers due to a physical altercation with teammates after a loss, prior suspensions for violating diversity and inclusion policies, and twice for abuse of an official.
The Pick Is In
The last time the Islanders and Hurricanes played each other was in the 2020 season, as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated divisional realignment last year. Carolina won 3-2 in overtime in the second-to-last game before the regular season shutdown. The Hurricanes won all three of the regular-season meetings in the 2019-20 campaign. Make sure to keep this in mind if you are interested in NHL betting lines this Thursday.