The New York Islanders’ final two preseason games took on a greater significance for Ilya Sorokin and Cory Schneider on Wednesday afternoon. Head coach Barry Trotz told reporters that starter Semyon Varlamov would not play in either of the team’s exhibition games coming up, which raises serious doubts about his readiness for the season opener in Carolina next week.
That means that Sorokin starting and Schneider backing him up is becoming a very real possibility.
“We’ll probably zone in on Sorokin and Schneider,” Trotz said. “The first priority is the No. 1 goalie, that’s Sorokin. Whatever he needs he’s going to get. Until Varly is back in the fold. Our priority will be Sorokin all the way.”
Sorokin’s vault into the starting role is once again coming because of an injury to Varlamov, albeit this time around it won’t be as chaotic. Sorokin made his NHL debut on Jan. 16 against the New York Rangers in a surprise start after Varlamov was injured during pregame warmups.
The 26-year-old now has 22 games of NHL experience under his belt and the current turn of events won’t be as jarring.
Still, Ilya Sorokin needs to use the time he gets in net during the preseason wisely. He had a strong effort in the preseason opener against the Rangers in September and played well against the New Jersey Devils last Saturday, however, there were a few lapses in that game that could have cost him in a regular-season contest.
He’ll want to iron out those details on Thursday or Saturday or both days, depending on when Trotz plays him.
Equally as important will be the need to see more out of Schneider in the time he gets the rest of camp and the preseason. The veteran goaltender made 24 saves in a shutout win on Tuesday over Philadelphia and looked as though his play had been improving as the game went on.
Before that night, Schneider had only looked so-so during his appearances and didn’t look as comfortable in net as the coaching staff had hoped to see. Trotz called Tuesday’s effort an “important game” after not playing at the level that the Islanders head coach had been expecting him to play at.
It would behoove the Islanders to work Schneider into one of the final games as well so that he could see some action against lineups that are more NHL-talent-heavy.
The Islanders are aiming for Oct. 14 to have Varlamov ready to go, but even Trotz admitted that “the window’s getting a little short” for him to be ready for opening night. Right now, all signs to Ilya Sorokin as the starter for opening night.