There are lineup changes coming to the New York Islanders and no line is safe, not even the team’s top line.
Head coach Barry Trotz told reporters after practice on Monday that he was looking at moving some of the lines around for Tuesday’s series finale with the Washington Capitals. New York dropped back-to-back games against Washington on Thursday and Saturday, marking the first time it’s lost consecutive games at home this year and comes amid a recent slump.
Trotz is pulling out all of the stops to try and turn the tide after the New York Islanders dropped down to third in the East Division. That means once again adjusting who plays on the team’s top line alongside Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal.
“I’m going to have some lineup changes for sure just because I think it’ll add some freshness to it and put some urgency into the group,” Trotz said after practice.
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Those are two things the Islanders need in the worst way at the moment as Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington all surge around them, while New York has dropped four of its last six games. This all comes as well with the Islanders offensive sputtering out scoring just four goals in the four regulation losses during that span and being shutout twice.
The New York Islanders did score six goals last Tuesday against the New York Rangers, which included a two-goal night from Josh Bailey and a four-point night from Anthony Beauvillier. The two, along with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, have been one of the Islanders’ best lines over the past three games.
However, right now no change should be off the table considering the way things have gone for the Islanders.
Trotz’s comments should open the door for a more such as Kyle Palmieri on the top line alongside Barzal and Eberle. That would mean the Islanders have three right-handed shots on the top line, but if Trotz was looking to add some urgency as he said he was then this could jumpstart that unit.
Travis Zajac has gotten some time in the middle of Eberle and Barzal over the past few games, and Leo Komarov has been seen on the top line as well at times. Komarov was there on Thursday during the 1-0 shootout loss.
None of those combinations seemed to inspire much offense from either Eberle or Barzal, who has gone without a goal since April 1 and only registered his first point in five games on Saturday. Palmieri remains a noted 20-plus goal scorer over the course of his career, and moving him to top-line could just be what Barzal and the Islanders needed to generate more offense in the final eight games of the year.
Or at the very least on Tuesday in Washington.
To the chagrin of a lot of folks, Trotz’s words could just as easily mean that Leo Komarov will make his way back into the lineup and onto that very top line. That would likely mean then Zajac being a healthy scratch in order for Komarov to return to the lineup.
Komarov has been a Trotz favorite and somewhat of a go-to since Anders Lee went down with a season-ending ACL injury.
“I know Leo isn’t a fantasy hockey favorite, but we’re not playing fantasy hockey,” Trotz recently said about Komarov. “It’s nothing about analytics. It’s about heart and guts and playing the right way, being committed, and playing in these heavy games.”
Monday’s news should also mean that rookie Oliver Wahlstrom returns to his place in the lineup as well. The 20-year-old has been scratched for three consecutive games now and it’s about time he comes out of the doghouse.
Wahlstrom has been going through a bit of an offensive slump of his own lately, but the rookie has shown he’s not afraid to put pucks on the net and that can create opportunities for himself and the players around him. After watching three games from afar and full practice day under his belt Monday, Wahlstrom is surely as motivated as ever to take the bull by the horns and light a spark under the Islanders.
That would mean Zajac again likely being scratched along with another player — perhaps Michael Dal Colle — if Trotz is so inclined to get Komarov back into the lineup.
“I think our forwards have disappointed a little bit for me in terms of just completing their whole job,” Trotz said on Monday. “That’s making yourself available for the D. They haven’t done a good enough job as they need to. When they do it just activates your D. Everything is connected, so when you see our D up in the play a lot we’re more connected. When you don’t, it probably means we’re not.”
Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston could also present themselves as options to return to the lineup to help shake things up. Johnston has skated in warmups the past two games for the Islanders, so there is always that chance Trotz adds a little more grit to the lineup, which is something he has done in the past.
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