Ryan Pulock had an opportunity to make an impact Friday night at Barclays Center and took full advantage.
The chance came on the Islanders’ top power-play unit, when the 2013 first-round pick saw a loose puck squeeze out through the slot. Pulock came off the blue line and stepped into his fabled slap shot, driving the puck past Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid.
It was the type of assertive, confident and simple play that impressed Head Coach Jack Capuano.
“What I liked tonight is that he got involved in the offense,” Capuano said after the game. “There’re a lot of guys that, when they get the puck on their stick, they want to make the safe play and a lot of times that’s the right thing to do, but tonight he shot a lot of pucks and that’s what we are looking for on our power play.”
Pulock said he felt comfortable quarterbacking the power play, adding that playing on the top unit made the assignment easier.
“I feel comfortable, but when you have elite players on it [like John Tavares and Kyle Okposo], it’s pretty easy,” Pulock said. “Those guys find spots and it’s pretty easy to find them. They make plays and you just have to get open for them and find seams.”
That was part of the thinking behind putting Pulock’s heavy right-handed shot on the top unit last night – the threat of a scoring chance up high created space down low.
“[Successful] teams in this league – they have those guys on the point [on the power play],” Capuano said “They have the big shot and it opens up space for your skill guys in front.”
While the coaches rotate the assignments, Pulock may not always be on the top power-play unit, but as long as he continues to take advantage of his opportunities, he’ll give Capuano and company a tough decision to make.
Healthy Lubo Bolsters Blue Line
Lubomir Visnovsky was limited to 24 games last season, missing a large chunk of the season after suffering a concussion on Oct. 19 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders didn’t sign a veteran defenseman in the offseason, but a healthy Visnovsky adds a steady, experienced hand with some offensive punch to the blue line.
“The [Thomas] Hickey-Visnovsky combination was real good for us, the analytics prove that,” Capuano said. “He’s a leader, he’s a veteran guy, he slows the game down and makes high-percentage plays. We get really good possession time when he’s on the ice. Hopefully he can maintain his health as we move forward.”
Hickey and Visnovsky are two of the smallest defensemen on the Isles corps., but have proven to be an effective second pairing, utilizing strong skating and positional play to match up against bigger forwards.
“He’s always in position,” Hickey said. “When you have a partner that’s in position, it puts you in position, too. Positionally we just complement each other. We get open and make breakouts earlier. The strength of us together is moving the puck out. We just feed off each other well.”
Visnovsky also quarterbacks on the Islanders power play, where he scored seven of his 11 points last season. His point totals last season reflected time missed due to injury, but his offensive ability – at even strength or with the man advantage – is where the Slovakian has made a reputation in the NHL.
“It seems to me that we have a four-man attack every time because either he’s jumping [into the play] or telling me to go,” Hickey said. “He’s just steady and doesn’t have bad games. We have so many skilled forwards and he’s the best guy going back for pucks and getting it to them.”
While an appealing storyline at camp has been which of the Islanders young defenseman will crack the opening night roster, a healthy Visnovsky may wind up having a bigger impact.