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What is the New York Islanders Goaltending Plan with Varlamov Returning?



New York Islanders goalies Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov may be returning from the IR at some point this week, but New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz doesn’t appear to be in a rush to get him back in net. The Islanders have been buoyed by the play of Ilya Sorokin for the first six games and watched as he put up an impressive effort in their 3-0-1 stretch last week.

That, at least on the surface, has given Trotz the confidence to ride the hot hand of Sorokin for the time being.

Still, the Islanders have been a team that has deployed both of its goaltenders over the course of the season and if they’re planning to compete for a Stanley Cup, Sorokin and Varlamov will be key pieces in that pursuit. Sorokin may be the Islanders goaltender of the future, but the team has relied on its 1-2 punch in net over the past three seasons that Trotz has been on Long Island.

First, it was Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss. Then Varlamov and Greiss held down the fort and now it falls on Varlamov and Sorokin.

Isles’ Net Belongs to Ilya Sorokin Even with Varlamov’s Pending Return

The injury to Varlamov changed the initial plans of the Islanders right from camp and into the start of the season. The workload would not have relied solely on one netminder if both had been healthy and it would likely led to the veteran Varlamov getting a majority of the starts early, with Sorokin sprinkled in.

“It isn’t the same plan because in training camp we had to switch the plan a little bit,” Trotz said on Wednesday.

But where exactly do the New York Islanders go from here? For now, the focus is on Nashville on Saturday and Montreal on Nov. 4. Beyond that, the Islanders’ attention is on the short-term picture and not the long-term one when it comes to Varlamov and Sorokin.

“We sort of look at the what-ifs,” Trotz continued. “Here’s what if everything goes well, if it doesn’t go well. We’ve talked about those scenarios. We probably only go about two weeks out now. versus the bigger picture. with everything going perfectly, we’d say this will be the plan for the first couple of months and then once you get a month or two into it then you go two weeks.

“As you go deeper into the schedule you go one week at a time. That’s sort of how I’ve always approached it. You have a bigger plan to start and then you sort of reacting off of what’s happening with your team and your goaltending.”

A typical Trotzian answer if there was one, but a look behind the curtain to their plan nonetheless. The Islanders and Trotz have tended to stick with the hot hand and the matchups play a part in the decision of who starts as well.

And the lack of urgency to get Varlamov back in suggest that for now, Sorokin will remain the New York Islanders starter. The decision is made a little bit easier by the fact that the Islanders only have two games during this 10-day span before the schedule starts to ramp back up.

“(Varlamov’s) Starting point will be his starting point,” Trotz said. “I mean he’s going to be a little bit rusty anyways, if it’s four weeks or whatever it is. Or five weeks it won’t matter. His starting point so his starting point is whenever we’ll put him in the net and when he’s fully healthy.

“We’ll get him in at some point and he’ll go and we’ll run with our goalies because we need both our goalies to be on.”

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