Canes, Isles adjust to new divisional rivalry

Posted by Chip Alexander on October 19, 2013 

— The Canes and New York Islanders will face off Saturday in a Metropolitan Division game …

Still sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? It does to the Isles’ Kyle Okposo.

“I was thinking the other day that we haven’t played any division teams besides (New) Jersey and then I remembered, oh yeah, Columbus is in there,” Okposo said Saturday. “It’s going to take a little bit and you’ve just got to get used to it. You’ve got remember Carolina, Washington and Columbus.”

The Isles (3-2-2) beat the Devils 4-3 in a shootout to start the season, then lost to the Blue Jackets 3-2 in another shootout in their second game. The Canes game will be their third Metro Division matchup -- Carolina (3-2-3) coming in second in the division with nine points and the Isles in third with 8 points.

“I think the change has been good for some teams like Detroit and Winnipeg,” Okposo said. “For us, it doesn’t change too much. There are eight teams in the division now and that does make it tougher but I think it’s good for the league.”

The Islanders ended a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) on Thursday with a 3-2 win over Edmonton at Nassau Coliseum. Okposo and John Tavares each had a goal and assist, and Tavares extended his point streak to six games (4 goals, 5 assists).

“They’re a good-skating, skilled, talented team that likes to push the pace,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “They’ve got a high tempo to their game. We’ve got to be ready for a quick game tonight. They look like they feel good about themselves and are playing good hockey. We need to be ready to play and ready for the first period.”

As for the Canes, Okposo said, “They always play us tough. It seems to always be a wide-open game, a lot of chances.”

Tavares said the biggest change with the new NHL divisional makeup are the extra games against the Western Conference.

“You’re home and home with them now,” he said. “You’ll be playing all the teams around the league. Before, it was so division-heavy. Now it’s more spread out and playing all the teams.

“I don’t think there’s too much difference because even the teams you play within your division you’ve played for so long in your conference. Other than Detroit and Columbus.”

Oh yeah, Columbus.

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