Semyon Varlamov was on the ice for the New York Islanders optional practice at PPG Paints Arena on Monday. Whether he’ll be suited up and on the ice for Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins is a different matter.
Head coach Barry Trotz confirmed that Varlamov was skating with the team’s extras and Newsday’s Andrew Gross reported that he was on the ice for nearly an hour. Cory Schneider was also getting work in with Michael Dal Colle, Travis Zajac, Ross Johnston, Thomas Hickey and Braydon Coburn, according to Gross.
Trotz is often coy with his goaltending and lineup decisions during the regular season and he is even more unlikely to tip his hand during the postseason.
“We’ll see where Varly is in terms of health. He’s very close,” Trotz said. “I trust both our goalies. That’s the great thing about having Ilya. … The thought process is pretty simple. Whoever we put in net we feel pretty comfortable with and we don’t make any excuses of this guy is in so we won’t be as good. We feel we put our goaltenders in there we’re going to be equally as good every night.”
The New York Islanders received a strong outing from Sorokin on Sunday in Game 1 in Varlamov’s absence. The rookie made 39 saves in the overtime victory over Pittsburgh.
Sorokin has played well over the course of the regular season despite a rougher start than he or the Islanders would have liked during his surprise first NHL start the second game of the year at Madison Square Garden.
Varlamov was injured in warmups that game forcing Sorokin to step in. This time around, he had more warning before being put into the net.
The 25-year-old Russian has developed well over the course of the season, not only on the ice, but his bond in the locker room as well. Sorokin’s teammates have quickly taken a liking to him.
“He’s an unreal guy,” Casey Cizikas said. “To see him grow over the course of the season, become more comfortable. He’s got a personality though. He’s funny in the locker room and guys love him. The way he performed yesterday, the way he’s done it all season. He’s stood on his head. He’s made big saves when he had to and kind of stolen some games for us throughout the year.”
Turning the Page Quickly
Game 1 is in the books and now the focus is solely on Game 2. That’s how Trotz wants the Islanders mindset to be right now.
He was quick to mention that on Sunday after the overtime win and again made note of it again on Monday. The need to focus on one game at a time had been stressed to his players before the start of the postseason, but the New York Islanders bench boss was also confident with so many returning players that the mentality was already there.
“I think you recognize that you take each game as a singular event and you move on,” Trotz said. “Good, bad or indifferent. You try to get better if you win or if you lose. You try to get better. Today will be about let’s get our bodies right. Let’s get our minds in the right place tomorrow.
“We didn’t do anything. We won one hockey game. We’ve got a lot of improvement in some areas.”
🎥 Trotz Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/EQhu35FShK
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 17, 2021
Trotz was quick to compliment Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan for what he had done with his squad this year and point out that they will make adjustments for Game 2 that the Islanders will need to be ready for.
The message appeared to get through to the players, who echoed some of Trotz’s thoughts on the matter after practice.
“I think it’s important in any series you focus on one game at a time,” Matt Martin said. “It’s a race to four and we did a good job picking up the first game and now our goal is to make it a 2-0 series. We know it’s going to be tough. They’re a good hockey team.
“They’ll play a desperate game tomorrow and we just need to be at our best, and be ready for what’s ahead.”
Banged Up Penguins
Pittsburgh was still a little worse for the wear on Monday during their practice in Cranberry Township. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin did not participate in what Mike Sullivan described as a “maintenance day,” according to Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
Backup netminder Casey DeSmith also missed practice on Monday.
Evgeni Malkin was on the ice, but didn’t partake in line rushes. He is being described as a day-to-day and will be a game-time decision for Pittsburgh in Game 2.
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