Preaching a team concept means making sure every player on the 23-man roster feels a part of the team.
So the lineup changes made by Barry Trotz, whose Islanders will face the Sharks on Monday afternoon at Barclays Center, are partly based on a physical opponent that features two Norris Trophy-winning defensemen in Brent Burns and newly acquired Erik Karlsson and partly based on making sure some players don’t sit out too long.
“We’re in the winning business, so you don’t want to do it just to make people feel good,” Trotz said after Sunday’s crisp practice. “But you try to incorporate as many people as you can early so they can be a part of your overall plan.”
Former Sabres goalie Robin Lehner will make his first start of the season after the Islanders split their first two games with Thomas Greiss in net, including Saturday night’s 4-3 loss to the Predators in their home opener. Former Penguin Tom Kuhnhackl also will make his Islanders debut, subbing in for right wing Tanner Fritz, and righthanded defenseman Scott Mayfield, also a healthy scratch in the first two games, will go in for lefty Luca Sbisa.
“It’s going to be fun. I look forward to it,” said Lehner, who signed a one-year, $1.5-million deal after going 14-26-9 with a 3.01 goals-against average. “I feel I’m ready to play. There are still a few things we’re working on. We’re changing a few things I’ve been doing my whole life. That’s not an overnight thing.”
Kuhnhackl had two goals and six assists in 69 games last season before signing a one-year deal. He will play on a line with two other new Islanders, Leo Komarov and center Valterri Filppula, who had a goal in each of the first two games.
Inserting Mayfield, who had two goals and 10 assists in 47 games for the Islanders last season, and pairing him with Thomas Hickey gives Trotz three lefty-righty combinations on defense. Lefthanded Nick Leddy, who had been playing on his off side, will be reunited with longtime partner Johnny Boychuk.
“It’s not that much fun sitting out and watching games,” Mayfield said. “It’s time to get it going and I’m really excited. I want to make sure I keep it simple and make the right plays. Be physical and do the stuff I’m good at.”