“Depth is everything.”
That essnetial truth is what Barry Trotz cited first when discussing his excitement for the addition of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Islanders roster. As we learned in his pre-game media availability today, both former New Jersey Devils acquired last night will jump right into the lineup.
Although the Islanders are already very strong down the middle, it sounds like Zajac (wearing #14) will begin at center, his traditional position.
Trotz said that with three games in four days and so little practice time, getting the newcomers comfortable was key.
“You want to lessen the uncertainty for everyone and just let them play. But the biggest thing for me is them getting comfortable with the group.”
Trotz also added that both players said they are comfortable wherever they are needed — Palmieri (wearing his traditional #21) on either wing, and Zajac on both wings as well as at center.
Trotz Pregame Availability pic.twitter.com/GkHBUEeTIW— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 8, 2021
Asked by Andrew Gross of Newsday if the smoothest, most comfortable idea would be to line them up together, Trotz was coy: “Yeah, might be,” no doubt smiling through his mask.
To that end, if this forecast of those two lining up with Josh Bailey holds true...:
Travis Zajac will center Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri tonight vs. the Flyers.— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) April 8, 2021
[NOTE for Historical Posterity: That tweet from the NHL correspondent was later deleted. Zajac did not center Bailey and Palmieri. Rather, the two ex-Devils played with Pageau]
...then the Isles have a few other alterations to make. We can safely assume Kieffer Bellows will come out of the lineup and it’s a good bet — unless there’s a previously undisclosed injury to someone else — that Leo Komarov will also come off the first line and out of the lineup.
That likely leaves three moveable players for two moving slots, first-line left wing and middle-line center:
Beauvillier/Pageau/Nelson - Barzal - Eberle
Beauvillier - Pageau/Nelson - Wahlstrom
Bailey - Zajac - Palmieri
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
I’m not sure this is how the Isles will want to plan long-term (Pageau and Nelson have both been key centers), but it likely provides the most immediate comfort for the newcomers, especially with the quiet and steady Bailey as their orientation leader and safety valve.
And it will give Trotz an early look at what options he truly has when, inevitably, other injuries or maladies require shakeups.
“I’m sure they have a solid understanding of what we do,” Trotz said. “It’s the little triggers, what I call protocols, that might be a little grey when you’re scouting an opponent, but become clearer [now that they are Islanders]. They’re both smart hockey players and I’m sure they’ll catch on really quick.”