The Islanders' Pierre Engvall celebrates his goal against the Kings with Brock...

The Islanders' Pierre Engvall celebrates his goal against the Kings with Brock Nelson  during the first period of an NHL game Tuesday in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Hockey players are supposed to be adaptable. It’s a fluid business and circumstances can change quickly, whether through trade or skating with new linemates or working with a new coach.

In reality, there’s always an adjustment period. But Pierre Engvall, acquired from the Maple Leafs on Feb. 28 as he was traded for the first time in his NHL career, is finally showing how valuable he can be to the Islanders.

The Islanders need his speed, his ability to play both on the penalty kill and the power play and, certainly, his offensive production.

“I think the first two games, you just take it all in,” the 6-5, 219-pound Swede said. “I came to a new city, a new team. I’m coming into it more and more.”

This week in California has been a particularly good one for him. He’s played on all four lines since joining the Islanders but coach Lane Lambert finally seems to have settled on Engvall skating on Brock Nelson’s left wing along with Kyle Palmieri. That trio combined for four goals and four assists in Wednesday’s 6-3 rout of the Ducks in their first game together.

Engvall extended his goal streak to three games in that win.

Plus, there’s little else to do on the road but bond with teammates.

“I think that’s a good point,” Lambert said. “Any time you get on the road and you get a couple of days off with your teammates, it’s helpful when you come into a new situation.”

Also beneficial was the Islanders being able to conduct lengthy practices on both Monday and Friday. Prior to this week and not counting morning skates, Engvall had just three practices with his new team.

“It’s a little bit of a new style of play,” Engvall said. “You get used to it. I think now I feel pretty good in it.”

Actually, the Islanders’ tightly-structured system is very different from the Maple Leafs, who are much more offensively inclined. Engvall has had to adjust to making the shorter passes rather than trying to stretch the defense.

And along with a new system comes almost a new language.

Palmieri said that adjustment can take a long time.

“Some of the lingo that we use in the meetings, it took me a couple of months to figure out some of the stuff,” Palmieri said. “You just learn on the fly. We don’t have a ton of practices and when we do, the coach will yell out four drills that the names don’t make any sense and you’ve just got to kind of stay on the back line and try and figure it out.

“He’s a good player. Since he’s come over, you saw bits and pieces and flashes of his speed and how well he protects the puck. When he gets in open areas, he knows how to finish. He’s settling in and getting to know the system. It’s a little different how we play and how much structure we play with.”

Can Nelson reach 40?

Brock Nelson became the first Islander with back-to-back 30-goal seasons since Anders Lee in 2016-17 and 2017-18 when he scored twice in Wednesday’s 6-3 road win over the Ducks.

It’s unlikely Nelson will reach 40 this season with 11 games remaining.

But Nelson, who turns 32 on Oct. 15 and still has two more seasons left on his six-year, $36 million deal, will have chances to reach that milestone.

“Yeah, I mean, that’d be cool, for sure,” Nelson said. “You set goals and you kind of incrementally increase or adjust different things. You can’t go out there with an absurd number. You’re always looking to get better and produce and help the team win and contribute. Right now, I’m at 30 and just trying to get the next one.”

Nelson also tied Bob Nystrom for 10th on the all-time Islanders’ list for goals with 235.

Not a chatterbox

Goalies are often responsible for much more than just stopping pucks and each netminder plays to his strength. Some are great with the stick, can handle the puck well outside of the crease and even help start transition rushes. And some are very vocal with their teammates about positioning and anything else going on during play.

Ilya Sorokin does not rank among the chattiest of goalies, not that that’s seemed to affect his play.

“I wouldn’t say he’s the most vocal,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “English isn’t his first language, right? It’s a little harder for him. I feel like he’s just smart when to be vocal. Some guys never stop talking the whole time, it’s just what they like to do. But he kind of picks his spots and uses communication at the right times.”

Rooting interest

The Islanders know the best way they can help themselves in their playoff pursuit is to win as much as possible. But it doesn’t hurt getting help from other teams, even bitter rivals.

For instance, it was in the Islanders’ best interests for the Rangers to do well against the Penguins on Thursday and Saturday nights at Madison Square Garden.

But coach Lane Lambert didn’t even crack a smile when jokingly asked if he was rooting for the Rangers.

“It’s always tough to root for anybody,” Lambert said. “We just have to take care of our own business.”


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