J-F Berube might have had the worst outing of his young career Saturday afternoon, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get playing time as meaningful games turn into must-wins for the Islanders.
“There’s no question that he struggled,” coach Jack Capuano said of the rookie, who let in five goals in 33 chances and committed a costly turnover that led directly to the first Penguins goal in a 5-0 loss. “You have to be mentally strong to bounce back. We’re going to need him. We have two goaltenders here right now that are going to continue to play as we move forward.”
The Islanders, who haven’t had Jaroslav Halak (groin) since March 8 and likely will not have him until the playoffs, have struggled to fill the void. Thomas Greiss and Berube have had games to forget. They Islanders are 5-6-2 since Halak went down and have struggled to keep up with playoff-caliber teams. Now, with defenseman Travis Hamonic out until at least the playoffs, the back end is looking particularly vulnerable as they hit a pivotal stretch.
“It’s on [Berube] now,” Capuano said. “He’s a professional and he’s got to battle through it. He’s got to be mentally strong and how he’s going to be focused tomorrow for practice and how he’s going to move forward.”
Marek Zidlicky, 39, got the call on defense Saturday after missing the last 13 games with an upper-body injury, and Johnny Boychuk took Hamonic’s place with Nick Leddy. In doing so, Capuano again underlined his preference for experience over youth in big-game situations. “Just veteran guys right now,” he said. “Ryan [Pulock] has been good, but at the end of the day, as we move down the stretch — all our ‘D’ are going to get an opportunity — but for me, [I look for] guys who have been there before when there’s a little bit of pressure.” . . . Adam Pelech, who has been on IR since January, is skating and close to a return, Capuano said.