Nerves were not exclusive to the Islanders rookies on the first day of training camp Friday at Nassau Coliseum.
While the season's official opening marked the first ever NHL practice for players who were drafted last June, it was also a day of nervous energy and excitement for the veterans. Not even superstar captain John Tavares was immune to the butterflies in his first Islanders practice in over seven months.
“It was a long day waiting for this two-o-clock practice,” Tavares said. “There’s always nerves, a lot of excitement and energy coming into the season. The day I lose that, I don’t think I should be playing. It’s what I love to do and I couldn’t have been more excited.”
The energy was put to good use, as head coach Jack Capuano drew up a tough first skate to evaluate the fitness and conditioning of his team, while also setting the tone for the next three weeks of camp.
“Today they went through a bit of a grind,” Capuano said. “Their heart rates were where they needed to be for the whole practice, and that’s the way it’s going to be around here and that’s the only way we’re going get better.”
The 62 players (36 forwards, 20 defensemen and six goalies) were split into three groups (A, B and C) each with four lines, three defensive pairings and two goalies. The team invited 11 more players to this year’s camp than last years, increasing the level of competition.
“It’s a competitive camp with a lot of capable NHL players, so everyone has to be ready every day,” Matt Martin said. “It was a tough skate. Everyone was playing hard on each other, trying to make each other better. You have to earn your spot.”
The veterans held their own informal skates in the weeks leading up to training camp at Islanders Iceworks, but said the pace didn’t compare to the real thing.
“It just brings a different tempo,” Casey Cizikas said of the first skate with coaches. “The first couple of days are always tough, no matter how hard you skate in the summer. [The coaches] had good drills for us. They were making us skate, making us work hard. It just brings another level out of all of us.”
The team will have to find that level quickly, as the first two preseason games of the season are on Monday in St. John’s, Newfoundland against the Ottawa Senators.
The groups will be back on the ice Saturday and Sunday. NEWS AND NOTES:
Two Islanders, Casey Cizikas and Michael Grabner, sported a new look at training camp Friday, skating without visors. Both players said they understood the risks involved, but had both skated without visors over the summer. Cizikas said he thinks he’ll start the season without one, while Grabner is going to evaluate the situation through camp and preseason.
“I skated without it in the summer and I liked it, so I am going to try it out. I can always put it back on,” Grabner said.
“I just have to be a little more cautious,” said Cizikas. FORWARD DEPTH CHART:
| ||center ||right wing |
|group a |
|michael grabner ||frans nielsen ||cory conacher |
|brock nelson ||casey cizikas ||josh bailey |
|brett gallant ||lukas sutter ||cj stretch |
|ross johnston ||justin courtnall ||victor crus rydberg |
| || || |
|group b |
|michael dal colle ||ryan strome ||kyle okposo |
|nikolay kulemin ||mikhail grabovski ||jack skille |
|john persson ||alan quine ||colin mcdonald |
|eric boulton ||mike halmo ||chris langkow |
| || || |
|group c |
|anders lee ||john tavares ||joshua ho-sang |
|matt martin ||johan sundstrom ||cal clutterbuck |
|sebastian collberg ||kael mouillierat ||harry zolnierczyk |
|colton gillies ||connor graham ||scooter vaughn |
|Tallest Player: Loic leduc 6'7 |
shortest player: cory conacher 5'8
heaviest player: matt carkner 233 lbs.
lightest player: joshua ho-sang 166 lbs.
oldest player: lubomir visnovsky 38 years, 1 month, 8 days
youngest player: michael dal colle 18 years, 2 months, 30 days
|By position |
left wing: 12
right wing: 7
34 left-handed shots
22 right-handed shots
all goalies catch left