Jordan Eberle is not noted for his fast starts, particularly since joining the Islanders.
In fact, getting a goal — two, actually — in his fourth game marks the fastest the top-line right wing has notched a goal since being acquired from the Oilers for now-Ranger Ryan Strome on June 22, 2017.
But Eberle has also shown during his tenure with the Islanders he can score in bunches and he’s been one of the team’s top players in their last two postseason runs.
That’s what the Islanders need in this sprint of a 56-game regular season. And that’s why the organization asked Eberle to alter his offseason training.
"We’re a team that needs contributions from every line, every night," coach Barry Trotz said. "Jordan has, I’ll just say, traditionally been a slower starter in his career, even to his days back in Edmonton.
"We talked about getting a little bit more of the interior grind, training a little different, preparing a little different," Trotz added. "He’s gone through those things. He asked his trainers in Calgary to add that to his already extensive training camp preparation and, hopefully, just those little tweaks we’ve asked him to make, they’re paying off for him."
The way he scored two goals in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Devils at Nassau Coliseum certainly was encouraging.
First, Eberle skated hard to the crease after Anders Lee sprung him for a breakaway, lifting a backhander with 20.9 seconds left in the first period. Then, Eberle positioned himself low in the right circle and was in perfect position to collect the puck off the backboards for a power-play goal at 1:56 of the third period.
Last season, Eberle went his first 14 games before notching two goals against the Red Wings. In 2018-19, Eberle started his season with a seven-game goal drought. It was a 10-game goal drought to start his first season with the Islanders in 2017-18 before he had a two-goal game against the Predators.
Four times now in his 11 NHL seasons, Eberle’s first goals have come in a two-goal performance.
"You want to get off to a good start," Eberle said. "[Our line has] created a few chances. We’ve had some good looks the past few games and hit a few posts. We just haven’t really capitalized. So, it was nice that we finished a few off [Thursday]."
On the other side
It’s been almost a calendar year since the Islanders acquired Andy Greene from the Devils on Feb. 16, 2020. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it far from a normal year. So, it wasn’t until this week that Greene, the former Devils captain, began to get real closure on the deal with two chances to face his former team, including his first trip back to Prudential Center.
Greene spent 13-plus seasons with the Devils but, on Sunday, he’ll be a visitor at The Rock. Greene logged 18:31 with two blocked shots in the home win over the Devils on Thursday night.
"It’s just kind of been a long time coming to play against them," Greene said. "All day it was just kind of a weird feeling just because I’ve never been through it before. Once we got into the warmups, it’s a little strange but, honestly, once the puck was dropped, it was game time and you’re ready to go."
Naturally, Greene still has some good friends on the Devils, none closer than Travis Zajac. Both entered the NHL with the Devils during the 2006-07 season.
"That one’s probably the weirdest," Greene said. "We’re very close. That was a first for me and he’s got the same attitude. He’s going to play me hard and play hard. There’s a little banter here and there but nothing out of the ordinary."
Goalie Semyon Varlamov’s shutout streak of 142:10 to start the season not only set an Islanders’ team mark but was the eighth longest in NHL history. Here are the 10 longest streaks to start a season:
1930-31: Lorne Chabot (Maple Leafs) 213:55
2014-15: Darcy Kuemper (Wild) 164:02
2008-09: Brian Boucher (Sharks) 163:41
2001-02: Roman Turek (Flames) 153:23
1969-70: Gerry Cheevers (Bruins) 151:26
1919-20: Clint Benedict (Senators) 147:23
1955-56: Jacques Plante (Canadiens) 145:36
2021: Semyon Varlamov (Islanders) 142:10
1930-31: Benny Grant (Maple Leafs) 141:42
2005-06: Roberto Luongo (Panthers) 140:55
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