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New acquisitions allow Barry Trotz to experiment with Islanders' lines

Head coach Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks

Head coach Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks on during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, Mar. 4, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It was line juggling with a purpose.

Coach Barry Trotz could construct new line combinations for Sunday night’s rematch against the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum to conclude a season-high, six-game homestand. He certainly tried to get a sneak peek at potential trios in the third period of Friday night’s 4-1 loss.

It was the Islanders’ second game since acquiring forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils.

"I have an idea of where we want to go," Trotz said before giving his team off on Saturday in the midst of three games in four nights. "It takes some time to adjust. The Jersey guys are coming in. There’s an adjustment period for them. Positionally, they’re learning our stuff."

 

Trotz started the new acquisitions on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line in both Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers and Friday, with Palmieri switching to left wing and Zajac, mainly a center for his 1,024 games with the Devils, playing right wing.

But Trotz tried Palmieri on top-line center Mathew Barzal’s left wing along with Jordan Eberle. He tried Pageau in that spot, too. Barzal also skated between Palmieri and Pageau while Pageau also centered Leo Komarov and Zajac.

Rookie right wing Oliver Wahlstrom will soon be added back to the mix, though most likely not until after Monday’s trade deadline for roster purposes.

The key will be finding the optimal spots for Wahlstrom, Palmieri and Zajac in the revamped lineup.

"I think they looked more comfortable [Friday]," Trotz said of Palmieri and Zajac. "A guy like Travis, who’s played 1,000 games in one uniform, he must have looked in the mirror, looked down at his socks and pants and they’re not the same color. It’s an emotional and different experience for him. And the same with Palmieri. It takes a little bit. It just doesn’t happen overnight."

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