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Islanders believe in Greiss

'Very comfortable' backup goalie filling in admirably for injured Halak

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Prior to signing with the New York Islanders on the opening day of free agency last summer, goaltender Thomas Greiss had never played more than 25 games in a season.

It's why many questioned whether Greiss could handle the workload of a No. 1 goalie, which he became when Jaroslav Halak sustained a lower-body injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 8.

But no one can question how important Greiss has been to the Islanders this season; in 34 games, he's 19-9-4 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. And with Halak expected to miss at least another four weeks, Greiss will be the No. 1 goaltender beyond April 10 should New York clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

"I'm very comfortable," Greiss told NHL.com. "I've been playing a good amount this year, and it's been going pretty well. Guys have been playing really well in front of me, and overall it's been going good. There's not that many games left. I'm feeling comfortable and ready to go."

Video: NYI@DAL: Greiss flashes the leather on Sharp

Despite Greiss' solid play, the Islanders have struggled of late; they went 0-2-1 on a three-game road trip that ended with a 3-0 loss at the Dallas Stars on Saturday. New York scored three goals on the trip and will need to find offense quickly; the Islanders host the surging Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, CSN-PH).

"Guys are in unchartered territories," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "For the short time that I've known Thomas, I know that he's a competitive kid, and that's all I need to know from a person. And I know that he's going to work and he's going to do his best. That's all you can ask for as a coach, no matter what the results are.

"I think he'll embrace the situation that he's going to get a chance to play some more games, and he's going to give it his best shot."

Should the Islanders make the playoffs, there will be questions coming from outside their dressing room as to whether Greiss can help deliver their first postseason series victory since 1993. Greiss, 30, has appeared in one NHL playoff game, which came with the San Jose Sharks in 2010.

Video: NYI@NSH: Greiss robs Ellis late in 1st with glove

"Right now, I don't worry about that at all," Greiss said. "First, you've got to make the playoffs and get the best spot possible when it comes to that. I don't think it's going to change too much. You play the same opponent a couple of times more, but it's still hockey, and I'll just try and play my game then."

Greiss' teammates certainly aren't concerned. Neither he nor backup Jean-Francois Berube has allowed more than three goals in a game since Greiss allowed five against Dallas on Jan. 3. Berube was solid in a 2-1 shootout loss at the Penguins last Tuesday.

"It's like the old notion, you leave college, you've got to get a job," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "They're not going to hire you because you've got no experience, but you've got to get experience somehow to get a job, right?

"I think he's played great this year and we've got a ton of confidence in him. J-F as well … he hasn't played as much, but we see him every day in practice, we shoot on him every day. We know he's a good goalie too. It's a tough loss with Jaro, but I think you've got to give people opportunities sometimes to see what they can do with it, and I think Greiss is probably really ready for it."

Video: FLA@NYI: Greiss robs Trocheck to keep the game tied

Greiss' demeanor has been nearly identical after each performance -- calm, cool, collected. The Islanders believe it's played a huge role in his successful season.

"He's very laid-back, very lackadaisical, but that doesn't mean he's not focused," defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "He's a great goalie. He's having a great year. He's arguably one of the better goalies in the League this year. His numbers aren't lying. We've just got to give him some run support. You know he's going to stop the pucks that he's going to need to stop; we've just got to clear rebounds for him."

Indeed, Greiss can't do it alone. The Islanders must find their offense, starting Monday. Eight of their remaining 12 regular-season games will be played at Barclays Center, where they are 21-8-4 in their inaugural season there.

"He's played great," captain John Tavares said of Greiss. "No question he's come in and been huge for us. We have three great goalies; J-F's got a lot of potential and he obviously hasn't seen much action, but when he's been in there too, he's played stellar. We're in a position of strength there. For us, we're confident in all three."

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