One game left before the bye week and All-Star break, and it’s against one of the best teams in the league, albeit one on a back-to-back. That last little clause is almost not worth mentioning for these New York Islanders as we’ve seen, but it theoretically should work in the Isles’ favor. Theoretically.
As a reminder, all 32 teams now get a bye week—16 the week leading into the All-Star break, 16 the week following—and no practices are allowed. In fact, I’m pretty sure no team activities whatsoever are permitted, so Patrick Roy couldn't even hold some video sessions with the players.
As I write this, the Islanders are taking morning skate, and the two guys who left Thursday’s game are not on the ice, as you might expect.
#Isles at morning skate (absent: Pelech, Fasching)— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 27, 2024
Sorokin (starter's net)
Ilya Sorokin was in the proverbial starter’s net, but Semyon Varlamov left the ice a little before Sorokin, and the first guy off is usually the starter. Hmm.
Pierre Engvall will not be catching a healthy scratch for his performance on Thursday, and I have to agree with that move. I no longer want to launch Engvall across the Atlantic like I did after that loss. Despite the turnovers and lack of production, he still does bring an element they need when he’s going. The late turnover in Montreal was unacceptable, but something tells me he won’t be doing that again. At the end of the day, he is one of the 12 best forwards on the roster.
On a perfect roster, though, he’s not a top-six winger. It looked like there was potential for it when he came over last year and instantly clicked with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, and that chemistry even carried over to the first month of this season. But his first egregious turnover against Minnesota in November cost him the next game in Boston, and aside from some flashes here and there, that line hasn’t been the same since. Although a decent chunk of the decline has to fall at Palmieri’s feet too—he also hasn’t looked or produced like a top-six forward for the last two months.
It seems clear that the Islanders need a little more help on the wing, at least one more. Oliver Wahlstrom looks to be drawing in for Julien Gauthier tonight, his first game under Roy. Maybe, just maybe, he can figure it out with a completely new outside voice who just so happens to work well with young players. It’s not good business to count on it, but considering the dearth of assets, cap space, and available wingers, it would be amazing if he could put it all together. Among other young wingers in the organization, maybe Ruslan Iskhakov finally gets his shot. Or maybe William Dufour gets the call. Sadly, it won’t be Zach Parise, as noted below.
They need something though because Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat, and Noah Dobson have been carrying them, and the results show they can’t do it alone if they’re not getting elite goaltending. At least Roy appears to be working on cleaning up the mistakes. Back to school, fellas.
That could be the most intense, teaching-heavy morning skate I've covered as an NHL reporter.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 27, 2024
FIGs go here. Sorry about that, contestants.
- A preview of tonight’s contest. It’s a third jersey night.
- Brendan Gallagher was not offered an in-person hearing for his disgusting elbow on Adam Pelech Thursday night, meaning he could’ve only been suspended a maximum of five games. And that’s what he got. It’s still not enough though. [NHL]
- Gallagher’s former teammate P.K. Subban had said online that Gallagher should be suspended for it. [NY Post] He reiterated it last night on the ESPN broadcast of the Rangers-Knights game.
- In Montreal, they love Martin St. Louis as coach of the Habs, but they looooooove Patrick Roy. So it’s worth wondering where they picked the wrong Quebecois, according to one of its major newspapers. [Montreal Gazette]
- They finally revealed all four Stadium Series jerseys—less than one month before the event and not before the holidays, classic NHL—and the Islanders one is... fine, I guess. I can’t imagine it took a whole year to design, but it took a whole year to come out. [ESPN]
- However, if you want to get one shipped to you before the game, tough luck because it isn’t coming until mid-March. It’s like they’re allergic to money. But you can still pre-order here. [Islanders]
- Stefen Rosner chatted with Bryan Trottier and Butch Goring about The Park, and they love it. [THN]
Last night’s NHL scores include the Rangers falling flat and losing in regulation to the Golden Knights and today’s opponent beating the Penguins in the shootout, though they were 41.5 seconds from doing us a favor and getting it done in regulation. Also, the Kings lost yet again.
- In the Rangers-Knights game, Jacob Trouba elbowed Pavel Dorofeyev, for which he will have a hearing of his own. [NHL]
- Corey Perry looks to make his Oilers debut today. [NHL]
- Zach Parise had said last year it was probably “Islanders or nowhere.” Probably did a lot of the heavy lifting, it seems, because he signed with the Avalanche for the rest of the season. But I don’t begrudge him. This is likely his last shot to lift the Cup, which I want to see him do, and it’s probably a safer bet for him to do it in Colorado. I’ll be rooting for him and I thank him for coming here at all. [Newsday] Here’s a pretty damning quip from Mathew Barzal about the state of the Islanders in relation to Parise not coming back to Long Island:
Mat Barzal and Brock Nelson both say Zach Parise had to make the right decision for him. Both wish he had come back to #Isles. Barzal laments Isles don't have 8-10 more points, in which case he thinks it would have been an easy decision for Parise to return to Isles.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 27, 2024