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Islanders training camp preview

Pageau's impact, play of Varlamov, healthy Pelech, Cizikas among keys to watch

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is taking a closer look at each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Today, the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders were 35-23-10 (.588 points percentage) in the regular season and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play the No. 10 seed, the Florida Panthers (35-26-8, .565), in one of eight best-of-5 series, and the winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

New York won 10 consecutive games from Oct. 12 to Nov. 5 and had an Islanders-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2) through Nov. 23. But they were 6-8-5 following the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 and did not win any of their last seven games (0-3-4) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, allowing 28 goals over that stretch.

"We could have been on that winning streak we were on earlier in the year, and it'd be thrown out the window too," forward Josh Bailey said. "A lot'll change; it's been a long time. It'll be a full reset, so we've got to make sure we're ready to go, and I'm positive we will be."

Coach Barry Trotz said he was confident the Islanders were primed for a turnaround.

"We had a great start and we had the long win streak, and then we did stumble," Trotz said. "We got some injuries, we didn't play as well. Even on the last stretch I was encouraged by where we were going. … We're set up to be a pretty hard team if we can get back to what we do really well.

"I didn't have any doubts that we were going to make the playoffs, I really didn't. I was pretty confident, even though we had (14) games left. I was confident we were going to get in because I knew our team was heading in the right direction. You can tell when it's not heading in the right direction, and you can tell when it is. … You can see guys, our team was really pulling on the same rope. You could see that our game was getting stronger. We weren't getting the results quite yet, but our game was coming together."


Player to watch

Goalie Semyon Varlamov is 8-3-1 in 12 games against the Panthers. It will be interesting to see whether Trotz sticks with Varlamov if he struggles early in the series; Thomas Greiss is 5-2-1 in eight games against Florida and had a 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in six games when the Islanders eliminated the Panthers in the 2016 Eastern Conference First Round.

Video: NYI@COL: Varlamov kicks out pad to rob Landeskog


Biggest question

Will the power play contribute? No player on the roster scored more than four goals with the man-advantage (Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle) during the regular season, and the Islanders tied the Nashville Predators for 24th in the NHL at 17.3 percent.


Injury updates

Johnny Boychuk, D -- Healthy after his eyelid required 90 stitches when it was cut by a skate blade March 3. He did not play in the last three games before the pause.

Casey Cizikas, F -- Healthy after missing the last 13 games with a lacerated left leg.

Adam Pelech, D -- Healthy after injuring his Achilles prior to a game against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 2. At the time of the injury, Pelech, a top-pair defenseman, was expected to be out four months.


Fresh face

Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored in each of his first two games after the forward was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 24. He scored an NHL career-high 26 goals this season and has 12 goals in 35 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: NYI@STL: Pageau nets Barzal one-timer for PPG


Telling stat

The Islanders have 10 players from the 2016 team that eliminated the Panthers (defensemen Ryan Pulock, Nick Leddy, Boychuk and Thomas Hickey, forwards Bailey, Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Nelson and Matt Martin, and goalie Greiss).


They said it

"[The Panthers have] got a lot of talented players; it's always a tough matchup. Great goaltending, they're really steady throughout their lineup. I think it'll be fun. It'll be a good challenge for us. I'm looking forward to that puck getting dropped, whenever the case may be." -- forward Josh Bailey


Projected lineup

Anders Lee -- Mathew Barzal -- Jordan Eberle

Josh Bailey -- Brock Nelson -- Derick Brassard

Anthony Beauvillier -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Leo Komarov

Matt Martin -- Casey Cizikas -- Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech -- Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews -- Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy -- Johnny Boychuk

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

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