has received since joining the Islanders on a tryout basis Sept. 19, his one-year deal shouldn’t come as a surprise. He has been tested in all three exhibition games the team has played thus far and is set to dress in his fourth game tonight against New Jersey.
“The one thing I tried to tell Steve was that he was going to get an honest shot,” said Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano. “He came in, he worked hard and he earned a spot on our hockey team.”
The 15-year NHL veteran has outwardly expressed his belief in the talented core of players General Manager Garth Snow has built from his first day at camp, but he’s even more convinced now than he was two weeks ago.
|Steve Staios looks on during the warm-up prior to NHL preseason action against the Calgary Flames on September 27, 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images) |
“You have to have the best players being your leaders and your hardest workers and so far, that’s what I’ve seen from this group,” Staios said. “There’s a real big upside to this team. I had the option of maybe three or four places legitimately, but it just made sense that this was the right place for a lot of reasons, mostly because the lineup and how the team played last year and where I could fit in on the team.”
Thus far in camp, the defenseman has proven to be extremely valuable during shorthanded play. In two out of three games, he’s played more than four minutes on the penalty kill, with more than 1:30 of shorthanded play the third night. He’s also recorded as many as four blocked shots in one game.
“That’s where I see myself (on the penalty kill),” Staios said. “I knew that as training camp went on, it would be more evident of where I’d fit in on this team. I’ve killed penalties almost every year of my career and I’m willing to block shots and do the gritty things you need on the penalty kill, so I’ll do whatever is asked of me from the coaching staff. It’s all about the team for me first.”
Capuano said, “He’s a physical presence back there. He blocks a lot of shots. He takes a lot of pride in the PK. So I think Steve is a guy that’s going to help us for sure.”
The coaching staff has not only given Staios every on-ice opportunity to show that he deserves a spot on the Islanders roster, but management’s decision to offer him a contract goes beyond his on-ice performance. They also like the leadership qualities he brings to locker room.
“We’re not in a rebuilding stage anymore, but we are still a young team and he can supply the leadership that we need along with all the other guys in the room, with Streiter being our captain,” Capuano said.
While the coaches know Staios will add an important veteran presence to their locker room, the Islanders newest defenseman said the leadership is already well established.
I’m really impressed by how mature the younger players are on this team. When you have a group like this with the high skill level, you can get away from thinking about the team game or the details or the willingness to do the right things to win. These guys have a good understanding of that already. - Steve Staios
“I’m really impressed by how mature the younger players are on this team,” Staios said. “When you have a group like this with the high skill level, you can get away from thinking about the team game or the details or the willingness to do the right things to win. These guys have a good understanding of that already.”
Pairing with Mark Streit
for the second time tonight, Staios said he already enjoys playing with the Islanders captain. In their first night together, Staios scored his lone goal of the preseason.
“I think our styles complement each other,” Staios said. “It’s good for Mark (Streit) to feel comfortable to jump up in the play, do what he needs to do and trust that I’ll be in position and be able to back him up.”
Without a final roster set, where Staios will ultimately fit into the lineup on opening night is unclear. He’s also partnered with Mike Mottau and Milan Jurcina
. Not having a definitive partner doesn’t really matter though, as he’ll be happy to play in any situation he’s asked.
“Throughout the season, I know things change, but it would be nice to find a pairing and stay with it,” Staios said. “When I look at our defense, I think there are a lot of interchangeable pairs that we could mix and match.”
Welcome to the Island, Steve Staios