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Roster still to be trimmed by three

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
With less than 48 hours until rosters have to be set for the 2011-12 season, Islanders management and coaching staff have some tough decisions ahead of them. Twenty-six active players remain on Long Island, so the team will need to cut three players by 3 p.m. on October 5, which is the time the league mandates all teams have their 23-man rosters finalized.

“There’s really no way around it,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said about making cuts. “They are all tough because kids come here with a dream to start the season with the Islanders. Just because there were transactions made, a lot can happen from now until Saturday night.”

The Islanders trimmed the roster by 19 players Sunday, assigning them to Bridgeport (Transactions). On Monday, forwards Nino Niederreiter and Trevor Gillies were placed on injured reserve retroactive to Sept. 30 and will be out seven to 10 days, but it sounds like Capuano is expecting to keep Niederreiter around.

Nino Niederreiter and Matt Taormina play for a loose puck along the boards during the first period of a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum on September 24, 2011. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images for New York Islanders)
“Nino was having a great camp,” Capuano said. “If he had continued on that pace that he was going to go, then obviously he would have been where he needed to be for opening night.”

Placing the forwards on injured reserve could give management a little extra time to evaluate a few remaining players.

“(General Manager) Garth (Snow) has always said if there is an option out there to go and make our team better, then we’ll look at it,” Capuano said. “I’m pretty happy with the guys that we do have. They work hard, but it will be tough in the next 48 hours.”

Veteran winger Jay Pandolfo, who is at camp on a tryout basis, and center Trevor Frischmon are two players making management’s decision difficult.

“They gave me a great chance, played me in every game and gave me good ice time,” Pandolfo said. “I felt pretty good, I hadn’t played games in a long time so it was good to get back in there and get my timing down and all that stuff, it felt pretty good and we’ll see what happens now.”

Frischmon said, “I’m just happy to still be here right now. It’s great to get this experience and go out there and do whatever I can to help the team and know that if I’m doing my best that good things will happen.”

Both have been given a lot of time in the Islanders preseason games and both consider one of their strong suits the penalty kill. Each saw shorthanded ice time in every game they played, while Pandolfo earned as much as 3:26 in one game and Frischmon earned 4:00.

“I’ve always been a penalty kill guy,” Frischmon said. “It’s something I take pride in, something I enjoy doing. I’m also good on faceoffs, good defensive centerman and someone who can play on the third and fourth line, play with anyone.”

Pandolfo said he’s hoping to bring more than just his penalty killing abilities, but also his veteran presence and leadership. However, without a contract, he’s feeling a little anxious as the deadline looms.

Jay Pandolfo skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 30, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“I’m definitely thinking about it,” Pandolfo said. “They have to have the rosters in by Wednesday, so I’m just trying to keep going day-by-day and see what happens. It’s all I can really do right now. It’s out of my control at this point so we’ll see what happens.”

If the Islanders sign Pandolfo or keep Frischmon up top, this doesn’t mean that Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen, who combined for 15 shorthanded goals last season, will be replaced on the penalty kill. However, Capuano has said he’d like to have a few different looks when it comes to special teams units since so much of the game is not dependent on 5-on-5 play.

Management’s final decision will ultimately be made by who has impressed the most at camp.

“The guys that want to play hard every shift for 35-40 seconds are the guys that are going to play,” Capuano said. “I told them that it doesn’t matter what happened last year, what your stats were the second half of last year or what your record is, it starts in the first period Saturday night against Florida. The guys that do what the coaching staff and their teammates ask them to do, play within the team concept, they are going to play.”

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