EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Semyon Varlamov was back on the ice with his New York Islanders teammates on Saturday, less than 24 hours before they open up their First Round Series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The appearance of Varlamov should be a strong indicator that the veteran netminder is healthy and will start Game 1 against Pittsburgh.
The Islanders spent Saturday practicing on Long Island at Northwell Health Ice Center before leaving for the Steel City,
Varlamov was seen taking part in the entire morning practice and taking shots from teammates during drills. He also skated on Friday with the team’s taxi squad, according to Islanders head coach Barry Trotz.
“He feels pretty good, but we’ll make all the right decisions,” Trotz said. “If there’s any change then we’ll make that change, but he seemed to get through quite well and feels good.”
Ilya Sorokin and Cory Schneider were both part of the practice as well.
Varlamov had missed the Islanders skates on Wednesday and Thursday with what Trotz described as a “little strain.” The Russian goaltender left Monday’s season finale in Boston after two periods.
Trotz had expressed little concern that Varlamov would miss any time in the playoffs and his teammates didn’t appear too worried either.
“I don’t think there was a whole lot of concern,” Jordan Eberle said. “Just a couple of rest days. He’s battled hard all year for us and he’s a big reason — him and Ilya — about why we’re here. It’s great to have him back (at practice) and I think for the most part it’s nice to have that dual-threat too. Not a lot of teams in the NHL have that and we definitely do here.”
Varlamov has played an important role in the Islanders’ success this year, even when the team found themselves in a bit of a scoring slump.
Varlamov has a career .917 save percentage and a 2.38 goals-against average in 46 career playoff games. He was equally successful in his first year with the Islanders last season when he had a .921 save percentage and 2.14 goals-against average in the Islanders run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The lines and defensive pairs at practice remained the same as they did during Thursday’s practice. Here are how the lines and power-play units looked during the Islanders’ final practice before the playoffs start.
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri — Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy – Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Extras: Ross Johnston, Travis Zajac, Michael Dal Colle, Thomas Hickey, Braydon Coburn
Power Play Unit 1: Noah Dobson, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Power Play Unit 2: Nick Leddy, Oliver Wahlstrom, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Kyle Palmieri