if there’s one person that’s benefited from the additions of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac on the New York Islanders roster it was Mathew Barzal. The Islanders’ star forward had a new winger by his side on Sunday night when Barry Trotz opted to move the recent acquisition to the team’s top line.
Zajac replaced Leo Komarov on the top line and gave Barzal an upgrade on his wing since Anders Lee was sidelined for the year by an ACL injury and Komarov has been used in that spot.
“I think things went pretty well,” Barzay said about Zajac’s move to the top line. “We were going pretty good with Leo and then Travis stepped in last game and we kept the ball rolling as we had been the last few games. The chemistry was pretty solid right away.”
Zajac is a natural centerman, but the Islanders utilized him on the wing on Sunday night. However, they did take advantage of the fact that he has plenty of success in the faceoff circle against the New York Rangers.
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Trotz opted to use Zajac to take faceoffs over Barzal in the overtime win with Zajac winning six of the eight draws that he took.
“I don’t I’ve necessarily played with a guy that’s been a true centerman his whole career,” Barzal said. “It’s nice to have two guys out there that have played the middle. He’s obviously an adaptable player, and I think I am too. If I am the first guy back I’ll grab the center spot and be low or vice versa. It could be really nice just cause, if he’s also 60 percent in the circle all night that means we have the puck a little more, and who knows, maybe run a play or two.
“It’s nice having such a sturdy, solid player on our line.”
A 15-year NHL veteran, Zajac bring a lot of attributes to the Islanders lineup, especially the top line. And for the Islanders bench boss that played a lot into his thought process for putting him alongside Barzal and Jordan Eberle.
Trotz note Zajac’s experience and hockey IQ as the two points that really made him the right fit for the top line.
“I felt I had to get these guys comfortable because they’re going to be important pieces for us,” Trotz said. “A guy that has faceoff experience and a hockey IQ like Travis, I just felt that was a good spot for him. And I think Mathew can learn from him. Mathew is a young player that continues to learn. His faceoffs have gotten better.”
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