For the Islanders top selections in each of the past two NHL Entry Drafts, having the opportunity to play in tonight’s preseason matchup against the New Jersey Devils is pretty exciting. What’s going on in the head’s of Ryan Strome
and Nino Niederreiter
? To show they belong in the lineup come Oct. 8 for the regular season opener.
“I’m a skill guy, but I think right now it’s important that I show that I fit in and play good defensively and be accountable on all ends of the ice,” said Strome, who was selected fifth overall in 2011. “It’s important that I give the coaches that mindset that if they put me out there, they can be comfortable.”
As Strome will see his first NHL action tonight, centering a line for Jay Pandolfo and Tim Wallace
, he said there are definitely nerves, but he knows he has to play his game and prove he belongs out there.
“I’m pretty nervous,” he said. “I actually slept pretty well last night. I didn’t think I would, but I got a good night’s sleep and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. It’s a big responsibility, but I’m excited and I hope I fit in pretty well and have a good game.”
He added, “Watching the game last night, it was a lot faster and a lot more physical. I think I’ve adjusted pretty quickly here. I’ve never played in a game, but hopefully I can adapt to all of the different changes out there.”
The situation is slightly different for the Isles fifth overall selection in 2010. Niederreiter played in preseason games last season and suited up for the Islanders during nine regular season games in the 2010-11 campaign before being sent back to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks.
“I just want to play as best as possible and just make the little things, that’s all I can do,” Niederreiter said. “Preseason is a pretty high, intense level. It reminds me of last year, but it’s definitely different. I think I’m more prepared for it (this year).”
Niederreiter will play on the top line alongside last year’s leading scorer, John Tavares
, and his linemate, Matt Moulson
, in tonight’s game.
"Obviously, I have the pleasure of playing with Johnny and Moulson, that’s going to be amazing,” he said. “It’s the first game for them. I already had two rookie games under my belt (this year), so tonight is the first time we really can see if we have good chemistry or not.“
Niederreiter’s play in those two rookie games was noticed by Head Coach Jack Capuano. His expectations for Niederreiter tonight are to play loose and play his game, complimenting Tavares and Moulson.
“He’s been good, he’s in a great shape,” Capuano said of Niederreiter. “He’s paying attention to detail. I think I can see it in his eyes. He’s not a guy that I’ve spent a lot of time around, but he’s all business. He’s serious. He wants to make a push hard.”
He added, “I want to make sure that’s he’s not out there tight and nervous. He’s at the point now where I think he knows what he needs to do.”
Nerves or not, Niederreiter said, “It’s definitely going to be great and I’m just very excited.”