The New York Islanders preseason game in Newark on Thursday just wasn’t meant to be. That brings the team’s remaining preseason games down to just one.
The Islanders had the day off on Friday ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the New York Rangers in Bridgeport. It’s the perfect chance for everyone to take moment and take stock of where the Isles are with less than a week to go before the season starts.
Here is what we’ve learned over the last week.
Varlamov’s chances of starting the season Healthy Seem Slim
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz is still trying to remain unworried about the severity of Semyon Varlamov’s “soreness.” Even before Thursday’s game in New Jersey was canceled, Varlamov had already been ruled out of playing in it as well as Saturday’s game in Connecticut.
While the Islanders have consistently called what has been ailing him “soreness,” the limitations it has put on him during camp seem to indicate it is a little bit more than that. Trotz for his part has admitted that they’re being cautious with Varlamov so that whatever is bothering him doesn’t pop up again during the season.
“I really, honestly am not concerned with overall health. I’m just concerned that he gets to 100% so we’re not dealing with any nagging stuff,” Trotz said. “We want him to get to 100 percent so there isn’t anything nagging. I’ve been through this before where nagging things keep nagging. If he needs two weeks now, give him two weeks rather than needing two weeks when we have four games in six nights.
“This is all about getting him ready for the long haul.”
That means it’s full steam ahead for Ilya Sorokin who is now the presumed No. 1 goaltender until Varlamov is healthy and ready to go. That should give Islanders fans some relief considering the rookie season that Sorokin had.
Sorokin had a .918 save percentage and 2.16 goals-against average in 22 appearances last year, as well as helped the Islanders defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round of the playoffs.
Preseason Game Cancelation May Impact Roster Decisions
The power failure that forced Thursday’s game to be canceled will be a funny memory to the players who already made the New York Islanders and the fans who traveled to Newark to only have to go home an hour later. However, it could have a big impact on the players that were on the bubble and looking to make one last push at a roster spot.
The Islanders’ four forward lines and six defensemen have been squared away since the start of camp. It’s the battle for the extra forward and defensive spots that have been heating up. Trotz planned to play 75 percent of his NHL roster on Thursday and 90 percent of it on Saturday.
Bubble players such as Anatolii Golyshev, Ross Johnston and Erik Gustafsson had all been slated to play. Golyshev was even supposed to play on the Islanders’ second line with Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson. It would have been the last chance for any of the three to make one last impression on the staff.
Trotz did seem impressed with what he saw from Golyshev so far in camp when he spoke with reporters early in the day.
“Goly has brought it from day 1 to now,” Trotz said. “Every day you could probably say he could be the hardest working guy up with the two or three guys that put the absolute max effort all the time. He is the most detailed player that I’ve ever had who probably doesn’t understand the language, but is so detailed in terms of some of the systematic stuff. Some of the of execution stuff. Practice execution.”
Has it been enough to keep Golyshev around longer than just camp though? That is the key question, Same could be said for Gustafsson or Johnston. Both have also played well, but would have surely liked one final chance to show what they can bring to the team in a game situation.
Lee’s Return Raise Top Line Expectations
Anders Lee had quite the return to the ice on Tuesday when the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a good indication for Lee, along with longtime line Mathew Barzal and newcomer to the top line Kyle Palmieri.
The three have played one game together and will surely get another one on Saturday, but their seemingly quick success has raised the bar for the three. Barzal and Palmieri certainly seemed comfortable in limited appearances together last season and showed that same chemistry in Philly.
Add Lee to that and the three look as though they can become a deadly group during the regular season.
“You think of all the good lines over time, you’ve got a real dynamic person in the middle with Barzy,” Trotz said. “You’ve got a top shooter in Palmieri, who will go to those hard areas but he’ a shooter. Then you have Anders Lee who is a massive man who heads to the net. Wins puck battles, loose pucks, those types of things and creates all those hard matchups for the defense down low.
“It could be a really good line.”
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