A day after Barry Trotz told reporters that he was considering some changes to the New York Islanders lineup, he wasn’t giving any hints as to what they would be ahead of Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
The likely change would be to put Oliver Wahlstrom back into the lineup since the rookie forward is available to play. Wahlstrom has not appeared in the Islanders’ last 10 playoff games after suffering an injury in Game 5 of their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Now the question is, who would come out of the Islanders lineup for Wahlstrom?
The answer to that seems to be a bit straightforward when you look at Trotz’s lineup decision history, and that would mean Wahlstrom would reclaim his spot on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri. Thus leaving Travis Zajac as the odd man out.
That isn’t to say Zajac hasn’t deserved to be in the lineup, quite opposite in fact. He has played a big role in the Islanders’ success since making his Islanders playoff debut in the first round. And Trotz wasn’t unhappy with how his team played in Game 3 either.
“Pretty solid game. I don’t have too many things in our game,” Trotz said. “We have to get to the net a little bit better. Obviously the chances we did have Andrei Vasilevskiy made some key saves, just like (Semyon Varlamov) did. Really an even game for me and it’s a matter of inches. It’s a matter of a play. … I didn’t mind our game at all.”
But Wahlstrom would be a much-needed sniper that the Islanders haven’t had much in this series. After being the highest-scoring team in the playoffs in the first two rounds, the Islanders have been held to two or fewer goals in the first three games of the series with Tampa Bay.
Wahlstrom only had one goal in the Pittsburgh series, but his ability to put pucks on net helped create chances for New York.
“Some guys get small in the moment, especially in the playoffs. I didn’t think Wahlly did,” Trotz said. “I thought he had a really good start in the playoffs and then he faded a little bit, and then obviously he got hurt. I have a lot faith in what Wahlly can do if I put him in. … No question we had a big discussion if he comes in the lineup or not in the lineup.”
Some have suggested they’d like to see Zajac stay in and someone like Leo Komarov come out. The likelihood of that happening is slim considering the high regard that Trotz has for Komarov and his reluctance to sit him for a game.
Trotz has often talked about the intangibles that Komarov has brought to the lineup, particularly the top line. That feeling hasn’t changed for Trotz.
And if there was another sign that pointed to that being an unlikely scenario, Komarov was made available to the media on Friday. It’s a subtle indication that he’d likely be in the lineup.
Even the notion that Komarov could be moved around in the Islanders lineup and someone like Kyle Palmieri could be moved to the top line doesn’t seem likely. Trotz has insisted on keeping the top line together as is, even though Palmieri who is the team’s leading goal scorer in the playoffs could help increase the offensive production for Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle.