Series (Game 1 of 4)

Florida leads 3-1

Game 1: Saturday, October 8th
Game 2: Saturday, October 22nd
Game 3: Sunday, February 12th
Game 4: Sunday, March 25th

Panthers 2

(1-0-0, 2 pts)

Islanders 0

(0-1-0, 0 pts)

8:00 PM ET, October 8, 2011

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

1 2 3 T
FLA 2 0 02
NYI 0 0 00

J. Theodore (Panthers - G): Saves: 27, Save Pct.: 1.000

B. Campbell (Panthers - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

S. Weiss (Panthers - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Panthers-Islanders Preview


The New York Islanders and Florida Panthers were busy in the offseason to ensure that, unlike last season, they won't finish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

While the Panthers went outside the organization for help, the Islanders are confident they already had the existing talent to compete.

The Islanders and Panthers open the 2011-12 season at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night.

Florida (30-40-12) finished with a conference-worst 72 points last season, but hired a new coach and brought in some experienced talent while setting its sights on its first playoff berth since 2000.

New York (30-39-13), meanwhile, had one more point than the Panthers while finishing last in the Atlantic Division for a fourth straight season. Its last postseason appearance was in 2007.

The Islanders' biggest offseason move was locking up John Tavares to a six-year, $33 million deal that keeps him with the team through the 2017-18 season. The 21-year-old center, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, led New York last season with 67 points, scoring 29 goals.

"This is where I want to live, to play and ultimately lead our team to the Stanley Cup," Tavares said.

New York also signed young talents Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo to long-term deals. Grabner, who turned 24 this week, scored a team-high 34 goals last season as a rookie. Moulson scored 31, while Okposo is looking to bounce back after missing more than half of last season with a shoulder injury.

He had 19 goals in 2009-10.

"I don't know if we should be in the playoffs or if we're going to be in the playoffs, but I think the way these guys are thinking here, it's, 'We've got to make the playoffs,'" forward P.A. Parenteau said. "There is no other way.

"It's a big failure for this team with the talent we have here. We're all healthy. There is no excuse."

Despite all the young talent and optimism, the Islanders are still saddled with goaltender Rick DiPietro's ugly contract. After signing a 15-year deal before the start of the 2006-07 season, he struggled with injuries and has played 39 games over the last three seasons.

DiPietro went 8-14-4 with a 3.44 goals-against average last season, and only Atlanta gave up more goals in the East than New York.

DiPietro, however, is far from the only option. The Islanders also have veteran Evgeni Nabokov, who went 44-16-10 with a 2.43 GAA in 2009-10 with perennial contender San Jose, and former first-round pick Al Montoya, who impressed by going 9-5-5 with a 2.39 GAA in the final two months last season.

That seemed to leave an impression on coach Jack Capuano, who announced early Saturday that Montoya would start the opener.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," Montoya told the team's official website. "We have great goalies here, but I got the nod tonight, so I'm just going to go and run with it."

The Panthers went through a lot more change, bringing in new coach Kevin Dineen -- who replaces the fired Peter DeBoer -- and adding several players.

General Manager Dale Tallon brought in defenseman Brian Campbell, forward Kris Versteeg and goaltender Jose Theodore. Former Florida defenseman Ed Jovanovski also returns as the team had salary cap room after trading several veterans.

"We're committed to turning this around," Tallon said. "It was very painful last year to do what we had to do and now we want to start to enjoy this process and see some success."

Theodore, a four-time 30-game winner in his NHL career, will be backed up by rookie Jacob Markstrom, the Panthers' second-round draft pick in 2008. Scott Clemmensen, who was expected to be the backup, will miss about a month while recovering from knee surgery.

Florida's bigger concern may be on offense. The Panthers scored 195 goals last season -- fourth-fewest in the league -- led by David Booth (23 goals) and Stephen Weiss (21).

To add scoring options, Florida also brought in Scottie Upshall, who had 22 goals with Phoenix and Columbus, and Tomas Fleischmann. The Czech forward had 21 points in 22 games after getting shipped to Colorado from Washington in late November, but he missed the last half of the season because of a blood clot in his chest.

Versteeg had 21 goals with Philadelphia last season while Sean Bergenheim scored 14 with Tampa Bay.

"You see the potential that's there," Dineen said. "The youth, the veterans, the skill that was added this summer, you have a lot of reason for optimism. It makes for a very exciting time. ... The storyline here is the potential."

Florida went 2-1-1 against New York last season and has won 12 of 17 between the two.