If this is indeed the first-round matchup the Islanders wanted, the Panthers have the talent to pose more than a few problems for the Isles.
That was proven in the three regular-season meetings between the two clubs, including a Dec. 15 drubbing at Barclays Center. That 5-1 loss to the Panthers was a bit misleading, since former Islander Roberto Luongo played exceptionally well and the Panthers scored five times on 17 shots, but that game showed the Isles that Florida is ready for prime time.
“We’ve had quite a bit of trouble with them this season,” Jack Capuano said. “We know what they can do.”
While the two teams ended up separated by only three points in the final standings, the Islanders’ inconsistency has to be ironed out against a young, speedy Panthers team that has a few old goats in the right places.
Here are five key areas to watch when the puck drops on Thursday in Sunrise, Florida: