The New York Islanders will have a few new looks as they face the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time since the Leafs fired Mike Babcock and brought longtime coach-in-waiting Sheldon Keefe up from the AHL.
Up front, the Isles will try to spark their listing offense by reuniting the “Bs” line of Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier.
Of more significant and long-term impact, they will also have to reconfigure things on the blueline now that Adam Pelech is lost for at least the rest of the regular season.
#Isles Barry Trotz on how to replace D Adam Pelech (Achilles/out for season) on the penalty kill: "I think it’s going to be combination of probably five guys. A guy like Leds (Nick Leddy), who doesn’t get a lot of PK time will get a little more. Everybody has to step up."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 4, 2020
That means first an opportunity for Noah Dobson, who has been with the club all season because he’s already cruised through the previous two seasons in juniors yet could not be assigned to the AHL.
Dobson got a little over 11 minutes last game, when his insertion for Pelech was a late move since Pelech was injured in warmup activities. That was his 12th game of the season, but he can expect to quickly exceed that total in the second half now that Pelech is out long term.
#Isles Barry Trotz on rookie D-man Noah Dobson: "He’s got great instincts but this level is a little different than juniors. He’s a real intelligent player who’s taken it all in and done a really good job when he’s been in. But now it’s show time and he’s prepared for it."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 4, 2020
If the new pairings and roles don’t work, Sebastian Aho is up on recall from the AHL, too.
The Islanders finally broke their goalie rotation as they headed into the winter break, and Semyon Varlamov is expected to get his fourth consecutive start tonight. He was outstanding as the Isles held on to win in their New Year’s Eve encounter with the Capitals, and he was not at fault for the 2-1 loss to Columbus on Thursday.