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Rookie recovery

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
In the last two years, the Islanders have selected fifth overall at the NHL Entry Draft. Tuesday night, both of those selections made a significant impact in Game 2 of  back-to-back rookie exhibitions with the Boston Bruins.

Nino Niederreiter (2010) and Ryan Strome (2011), linemates throughout Rookie Camp, built chemistry in a few short days and combined for three goals and three assists in the Islanders 7-2 win over the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum.

“We said after the last game that we had a lot of chances and they seemed to go in tonight,” Strome said. “My linemates were great. We moved the puck very well and we are all very happy with our play.”

Though Niederreiter and Strome weren’t involved, the tone was set early. After the opening faceoff, three fights took place in the first five seconds and the Islanders garnered enough momentum to carry them through the rest of the game.

“To start us off, those three big fights were huge,” said Tyler McNeely, Strome and Niederreiter’s linemate. “They really got us going and set the tempo for the game. We really calmed down and had a good game after that.”

McNeely, a winger who played the final 10 games of last season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, put the Islanders on the board first as he scored six minutes in.

“Nino made a great pass to me, sent me in on a breakaway,” McNeely said. “There were two guys on me. I didn’t have much time, just had to get the goalie moving, so I went from backhand to forehand and it worked.”

McNeely would follow that up with back-to-back assists on two goals by Strome. Before the end of the first period, the Isles led 4-0 on the first of Casey Cizikas' two goals.

Niederreiter, already on the board with two assists, scored a power-play goal four minutes into the second period.

“They gave me a nice pass in front of the net which I only had to kind of tap in,” Niederreiter said. “It’s definitely a great feeling to get another goal (after scoring twice in game one).”

Justin DiBenedetto closed out the period with an even-strength goal and put the Isles ahead 6-0. Cizikas scored the team’s final goal just over four minutes into the third period.

Swedish goaltender Anders Nilsson played extremely well between the pipes. He made 38 saves on 40 shots, which included seven saves during a critical 5-on-3 at the start the second period.

“Especially on the 5-on-3, I thought Nilsson made some really good saves to keep us right where the score was at that time,” said Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano.

Unfortunately, Nilsson’s shutout run came to a halt as Boston came back to score two unanswered goals (Craig Cunningham and Anthony Camara) and bring the final tally to 7-2. Capuano was still pleased with his goaltender’s performance.

“He’s a big guy,” Capuano said. “He controlled his rebounds. He was aggressive. He wasn’t passive. He fought to see through traffic. I thought he did well. His communication with the defense was pretty good too.”

Nilsson, who will play his first North American campaign this season, was happy with the outcome.

“I felt better after the first period,” Nilsson said. “(At first,) I felt a bit shaky... But the second and the third period felt a lot better. I had really good help from all the defensemen and all the players out there did a great job for me.”

McNeely, who completed his fourth collegiate campaign with Northeastern University before making his professional debut with the Sound Tigers, said he thought the Islanders had success in their second exhibition because they played as a team.

“We were a lot more physical tonight, but really we played more of a team game,” McNeely said. “Monday was a little bit sloppy being the first game back for everyone, but we watched videos and came together as a team.”
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