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Islanders 'will be fine' after loss of Tavares, Greiss says

Goaltender feels they can rebound with new coach, GM

by Kurt Dusterberg Correspondent

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Thomas Greiss said the New York Islanders can make a quick turnaround this season after major changes.

"We have some good players, but everybody's got to be better," the goaltender said of the Islanders, who went 35-37-10 and finished 17 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "I've got to be better, the defense has to be better for us. Last year was just an awful year for a lot of guys. It just didn't click for the whole group."


[RELATED: Islanders facing dire predicitions 'slap in the face,' Boychuk says]


New York, which lost free agent center John Tavares when the captain signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, enters the season with new leadership off the ice. Lou Lamoriello was hired as president of hockey operations May 22 and replaced Garth Snow as general manager June 5 after three seasons as Maple Leafs GM. Barry Trotz replaced Doug Weight as coach June 21, two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals.

"With new management and everything, it's going to be a fresh start for everybody," Greiss said this week at the hockey camp he is running for children of military families. "A new coach is going to be interesting. I've talked to him on the phone. I'm sure he's going to change a bunch of things."

Greiss said Tavares' departure is a blow to the Islanders but that they have enough talent to compete. They signed free agent forwards Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl and Jan Kovar, and traded for forward Matt Martin, who played for New York from 2009-2016.

Video: Andrew Gross on Tavares leaving, Barzal's emergence

"It's definitely going to be a big adjustment now that Tavares is gone," he said. "That's a huge loss, but we'll be a good, skilled team overall. I think things will be fine." 

The Islanders allowed an NHL-high 293 goals last season, prompting them to sign former Buffalo Sabres starter Robin Lehner to replace Jaroslav Halak, who signed with the Boston Bruins. Halak went 20-26-6 in 54 games (49 starts) with a .908 save percentage and 3.19 goals-against average.

"[Lehner] is new to me, but we'll meet for the first time when we get to New York," Greiss said. "It's a long year. … We'll both play hard, and whoever plays, plays."

Greiss, 32, went 13-8-2 for the Islanders in 27 games (25 starts), but his .892 save percentage and 3.82 GAA were his worst since 2007-08, his first NHL season.

"I'm starting to get back on the ice, doing this week with the kids," he said. "I've had a good summer working out, just getting healthy. Regroup, refresh, work at my game. It's good to get away from the game a little bit and just have some family time. You don't think about hockey for a little bit." 

Greiss said there were troubling signs for the Islanders early last season.

"We started off really hot (15-7-2), but we had a bunch of holes in our game we didn't really address," he said. "Our shooting percentage was unreal at the beginning of the year, then it came back to normal and we couldn't recover from that. It was just bound to happen. Things got away from us from there."

Video: Discussing how the Islanders can improve defensively

With change in the air, there is one adjustment that Greiss isn't quite ready to make.

"I'll have to shave my beard," he said, noting that Lamoriello doesn't allow facial hair. "That's why I'm still letting it grow."

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