NEW YORK — The New York Islanders opened the preseason with a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Ross Johnston each scored in the win, and Ilya Sorokin and Jakub Skarek split time in net.
The game was the first glimpse the Islanders’ coaching staff had to see some of its new additions in game action, including Aatu Raty, Erik Gustafsson and Richard Panik. Here are five takeaways from the Islanders’ preseason win over the Rangers.
Sorokin Calm, Cool and Collected
Ilya Sorokin’s first go-around at Madison Square Garden didn’t go as the young netminder hoped. He’s come a long way since then with the New York Islanders and on Sunday he picked up where he left off.
Sorokin started in Sunday’s win and played 32:44 before head coach Barry Trotz put in Jakub Skarek in the middle of the second period. He was credited 13 saves, which included a handful of impressive stops which were made with relative ease.
It started early in the first period when Chris Kreider caught the Islanders off guard and was able to get a shorthanded breakaway. The shot attempt was turned aside by Sorokin. Another impressive stop came in the opening minutes of the second period when Sorokin turned away a shot from Alexis Lafreniere with his shoulder.
“I really don’t feel like it took him very long last year to find (his game),” Cal Clutterbuck said about Sorokin. “He’s just really solid. His game is really good. He’s had success everywhere he went and I don’t think the adjustment period, I don’t think it took him that long. It’s good to see him come back after a summer and still be sharp.”
ILYA SOROKIN WORLD DOMINATION pic.twitter.com/hcbKR8A9hI
— mary (@barzyhsx) September 26, 2021
Islanders get Plenty of Power Play work
The New York Islanders weren’t short on power-play chances on Sunday night against the Rangers. By the final horn, the Islanders had gotten four chances on the man-advantage and capitalized on one of them — a Casey Cizikas goal at 17:06 of the first period.
Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson got time on the power play against the Rangers, as did new guys Panik and Gustafsson.
The Islanders’ power play has historically been one of the team’s weaker aspects over the years, even dating back before Barry Trotz arrived on Long Island. New York finished the regular season last year with a power-play percentage of 18.8.
The Islanders even got the chance to work on their 5-on-3 power play. It was the team’s first real work on the power play with Trotz telling reporters after the game that they hadn’t done any special teams work during the first few days of camp.
“We’ll get into it next week, but we’ve done absolute zero on it,” Trotz said. “I’m just looking at our 5-on-5 game. I didn’t look into anything with the special teams at this point.”
Panik Gets Time in the Top Six
Richard Panik had spent the start of training camp working with the Islanders’ fourth line of Cizikas and Clutterbuck. Trotz knew he had an edge to his game, but didn’t know much about the forward. On Sunday, Trotz opted to give him a chance alongside Nelson and Josh Bailey and as previously mentioned gave him some time on the power play.
“He’s a big body that moves well. He’s good protecting the puck, making some little plays a couple times,” Nelson said about Panik. “I think he opened up some space, create some space for himself to get some offense and some looks. If he’s in I just think he adds to our depth up front.”
The early indication seems to be that the extra forward spot is Panik’s to lose, but there’s still plenty of camp and preseason to go so that could change. Panik through the first few days of camp and the Islanders’ first preseason game has looked like he could be a guy that can slot into different parts of the lineup, from the fourth line up to a top-six spot.
Robin Salo Stands out on Blue Line
Without even being mentioned in a question, Trotz mentioned how impressed he was by the play of Robin Salo. The New York Islanders prospect certainly did everything he could to the attention of the coaching staff.
Salo skated well and brought a noticeable physical element to his game when he needed to. Paired with Scott Mayfield, Salo played 19:11 on Sunday and even got the chance to get some power-play time in.
“I thought Salo was really poised and made some really good decision,” Trotz said. “His first game here was really, really solid.”
One preseason performance won’t be enough to earn Salo a chance at making the New York Islanders roster, but it was a good start to his camp. Gustafsson, who is here on a PTO, is expected to stick around and likely be the Islanders’ seventh defenseman. Did Salo play enough to get into the conversation?
Fourth Line Didn’t miss a beat
One of the least surprising notes from Sunday was the success of the fourth line. Cizikas and Clutterbuck each scored, which included that impressive feed from Clutterbuck to set up Cizikas for an equally as impressive goal.
If there was any question about how well the two would play, even with Matt Martin recovering from an injury, they certainly seemed to answer that quickly against the Rangers.
We are beyond THRILLED to see plays like this again! 😍 pic.twitter.com/9SVIYEod8C
— NHL (@NHL) September 26, 2021
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