Will the New York Islanders be partying like it’s 1993 or will they be booking flights to Pittsburgh when the night is over?
That question will be answered in a matter of hours when the puck drops for Game 6 between the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Isles have a chance to clinch a playoff series on Nassau Coliseum ice for the first time since 1993.
They may have to do it without Oliver Wahlstrom in the lineup after he was forced to leave Game 5 on Monday after taking an awkward hit to the boards in the third period. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said he would be a game-time decision and that Travis Zajac would take his place if he couldn’t play.
Zajac hasn’t played in a game during the postseason and his last time in any type of game action was on May 8 against the New Jersey Devils.
“You talk to him and you just try to make sure he’s ready,” Andy Green said about Zajac. “Involved and part of the team. Then when he does get in there he’s ready.”
Since arriving on Long Island Zajac’s playing has been limited on the Islanders roster. He played in 13 regular-season games with the New York Islanders after being acquired before the April trade deadline. He had a goal and an assist in that span.
Trotz said that Zajac’s true character shined through during the time he had to sit out.
“One of the things you want is good people and you’re not going to find a better person than Travis,” Trotz said. “When I had to tell Travis he wasn’t dressing for the first time in probably 1,000 games, I mean that’s probably a harder conversation. He just said ‘hey coach I’m good.’ It probably hurt the first time. … He just said ‘I’ll be ready whenever you want me to play.’ That’s just Travis Zajac. That’s why he was a captain.”
If Zajac plays it would likely be on the third line alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri.
No other lineup changes are expected from the Islanders and Ilya Sorokin is the likely starter tonight for Game 6. Sorokin was the first goaltender off the ice at the Islanders’ optional morning skate in East Meadow, Per Arthur Staple of the Athletic.
The Islanders will see one change… in the stands. Capacity for the Nassau Coliseum is being raised to 9,000 from the 6,800 that was allowed for Game 3 and Game 4.
🎥 Trotz Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/SPJw5sIvPO
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 26, 2021
“I hope they start cheering and get the lungs going at about 1 o’clock this afternoon,” Trotz said. “They should be primed up for a real good night hopefully. We’ll need them. This is a very good hockey team that we’re playing in a special building, obviously because of its history. The atmosphere is hard to replicate because of the quaintness of it and the passion of our fans.
“We’ve got to use every ounce of their good vibes or whatever you want to call it to get by this very good hockey team in Pittsburgh.”
Leo Komarov added: “It’s going to be loud hopefully. It’s always nice to play at home and we have great fans.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
New York Islanders Lines (Projected)
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines (Projected)
Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker — Evgeni Malkin — Kasperi Kapanen
Jared McCann — Jeff Carter — Frederick Gaudreau
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang
Mike Matheson — Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson — John Marino
Should the Islanders win tonight it would be the third straight year they’ve advanced to the Second Round of the playoffs and the first time since 1979-83 that they’ve done in it in three consecutive years. … Josh Bailey scored the second overtime goal of his Stanley Cup Playoff career in Game 5, the most among all active Islanders skaters. … The Islanders are 11-1 all-time in series that they lead 3-2 (and are 10-2 in those series in Game 6). … Pittsburgh is 4-3 all-time under head coach Mike Sullivan when facing elimination in a playoff series. … The Penguins have an all-time series record of 7-8 in best-of-seven playoff series when entering Game 6 down, 3-2, in the series. … Evgeni Malkin enters Game 6 one goal shy of tying Mario Lemieux for most power-play goals in the playoffs in Pittsburgh franchise history. Malkin currently has 28.
How to Watch
Tonight’s game will air locally on MSG+. Nationally the game will air on NBCSN. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 1050 AM ESPN Radio, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.