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Islanders Räty Spurs Re-Evaluation of Lineup, Wotherspoon’s Fit



New York Islanders Aatu Räty & Parker Wotherspoon (Photos courtesy of New York Islanders Instagram)
New York Islanders Aatu Räty & Parker Wotherspoon (Photos courtesy of New York Islanders Instagram)

The New York Islanders get back to work Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and some familiar faces from their 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers remain in the lineup.

Youngster Aatu Räty and defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, who both made their NHL debuts Friday, played well and earned the opportunity to stay in.

Aatu Räty Spurs Re-Evaluation of Lineup

On Friday morning, out of necessity, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello recalled 20-year-old centerman Aatu Räty with Casey Cizikas battling an upper-body injury. Räty showed off his two-way game and goal-scoring prowess in his NHL debut.

Räty finished his night with a goal on three shots with two hits in 11:25 minutes.

The belief was that despite Räty’s strong showing, if Cizikas could return to the lineup Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the rookie would take a seat or be returned to Bridgeport.

However, with the continued absence of injured forwards Kyle Palmieri and Cal Clutterbuck, along with Simon Holmstrom’s day-to-day status (likely IR stint coming), there was a spot for Räty to remain in the lineup.

But Räty is not just staying in the lineup. He’s remaining as the fourth-line center as head coach Lane Lambert has moved Cizikas to the third-line winger role.

Here are the Islanders lines from Tuesday’s morning skate:

Josh Bailey-Mat Barzal-Oliver Wahlstrom
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Anthony Beauvillier
Zach Parise-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Casey Cizikas
Matt Martin-Aatu Raty-Hudson Fasching

Robin Salo-Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov-Scott Mayfield
Sebastian Aho-Noah Dobson

Ilya Sorokin
Cory Schneider

As for the game plan, Lambert had this to say about his decision: “We’ve got, basically, I guess, you could say five centermen, so we’ll have to evaluate as the game goes on and see where we go.”

Lambert’s decision speaks volumes to how he views Aatu Räty. He’s taking a 12-year NHL veteran and fourth-line staple in Cizikas and placing him in a position he has never started at in his NHL career.

New York Islanders forward Matt Martin reiterated to NYI Hockey Now that Lambert’s decision says a lot.

“He’s playing center again tonight, with Cizikas moving to the wing. So I mean, I think in some ways that’s a pretty good indication of what they saw from him and how responsible he is as a centerman.”

“There’s been times in games where Lane has put me out in certain situations, playing wing. It’s definitely going to be different. But the way Pageau and I take face-offs, I think the majority of the time, I’ll be taking them on my backhand, and he’ll be taking them on his.

“We’re in a position where if it does work out where I have to play low, then we are okay with that as well. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t done it in a long time, starting on the wing, but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Parker Wotherspoon’s Chemistry With Ryan Pulock

With the absence of Adam Pelech, who will miss his ninth-straight game Tuesday, Lane Lambert has gone to the Robin Salo well, but the 24-year-old is not ready for an everyday NHL role.

On Friday, the New York Islanders recalled 25-year-old Parker Wotherspoon, who had played roughly 300 AHL games without an NHL chance throughout eight seasons with the Bridgeport Islanders.

He got one on Friday night and played like an NHL veteran.

Wotherspoon kept things simple in his 14:47 minutes, as he moved the puck quickly to his linemates, which helped the Islanders transition game and played responsible defense to the point where he didn’t stand out–which is a good thing.

He finished his night with two shots, a hit, and a block.

And that’s what the Islanders need from Pelech’s replacement–a simple, responsible game.

Not to mention, Wotherspoon’s game seemed to complement Ryan Pulock as well, as they will remain partners Tuesday night.

“I thought they played well the other night,” Lambert said. “We’ll see. Again, it’s a small sample size from that standpoint, but I really like his (Wotherspoon’s) compete level and his strength, and I thought he played well.”

NYI Hockey Now caught up with Wotherspoon following Tuesday’s skate to get his take on how he played and what it was like to play with Pulock.

“It was good. I mean, snapping the first couple of pucks definitely brought my confidence up,” Wotherspoon said. “And I mean with Pulock, it’s easy. Like he makes it simple for me. He’s going to be there. You know, we use each other…talk a lot. I mean, he’s obviously a great defenseman.”