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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday morning may have ended in a 4-4 tie, but the Orange team took ownership of the Skills Competition, coming out with the win.

But really, this scrimmage wasn’t about a win or a loss. It was about working together and getting some practice in before the Islanders head in to their first set of exhibition games on Wednesday. Half of the squad will play in Philadelphia versus the Flyers and the other half of the squad will play in Saskatoon versus the Calgary Flames.

“I think we’ll be better prepared going into an exhibition game now, having the opportunity to have a test run before we get out there,” said the Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon.

Gordon also said the scrimmage gave he and the rest of the coaching staff a lot of talking points to go over with the players when they come to practice next week. He particularly noted the players comfort level with positional play.

“Overall, there was a lot of good stuff that I thought we did with the puck offensively,” Coach Gordon said. “I think every team wants to get better away from the puck. That’s your biggest challenge starting a new year, to be able to have everybody on the same page.”

Islanders forward Blake Comeau scored the first two goals for the Orange team, propelling them to an early two-goal lead. Overall, he thought the game went well because the players were all working hard out there on the ice and said it was good practice for the exhibition games.

But Comeau added, “We got off to a good start, we (Orange team) maybe had a few letdowns and they (Blue team) capitalized on them, but that’s why we play these games is to make sure that everything that we practice is ready to go for when we play real games.”

No one might be more excited to get the season rolling than Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who is healthy for the first time in three years at the start of the season.

“It went great,” DiPietro said about his first scrimmage of the season. “It was a great opportunity to work on some things that you can’t work on in practice… I’m excited for the first exhibition game on Wednesday.”

Coach Scott Gordon also thought the game was good for the veteran goaltender.

“To be able to get the rust off, obviously (DiPietro) has had some time off from a game situation, I thought he was good, especially the power plays,” Coach Gordon said. “He made some good saves in the five-on-three and had to fight through some traffic.”

DiPietro had mixed feelings about the scrimmage, saying 11 a.m. isn’t the easiest time to play a hockey game, but he said the team battled through it. Most of all, the goaltender said he knows this year will be something special for the Islanders.

“The guys are excited,” DiPietro said. “We have a good room and guys really want to push each other to really have a great season this year… It’s time for everyone to step up and not to sound too cliché, but take the bull by the horns, but that’s the truth, that’s what we need to do.”

DiPietro added, “We’ve got a lot of experience, a lot of great young talent. We’re going to keep working hard, have a positive attitude and see where it takes us.”
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