The Islanders’ presumed goalie of the future, Russian Ilya Sorokin, joined the team for practice for the first time on Tuesday, though he is ineligible to play in either Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Rangers at Toronto or when the season resumes on Saturday.
And before the puck drops at 8 p.m. on what figures to be a physical exhibition game at Scotiabank Arena, the New York rivals are likely to come together in a show of solidarity against social injustice and to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Bruins issued a statement on Tuesday that their team intended to lock arms during the U.S. and Canadian anthems “as a sign of solidarity with the Black community.” The Flyers and Penguins stood side-by-side during the anthems before their exhibition game on Tuesday at Toronto.
“I think what Boston’s doing is really a great gesture and I saw earlier today Pittsburgh and the Flyers came together,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “So, I’m sure we’ll be in touch with the Rangers and try to figure something out here. Probably something pretty similar. But I think it’s awesome to see. It’s a great reason to come together as rivals and teams and show the true importance of coming together and standing up for justice and what is right…to try to make this world a better place.”
Wednesday will mark the first game for the Islanders since a 5-4 shootout loss at Vancouver on March 10. The Islanders, seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, open their best-of-five qualifying series against the 10th-seeded Panthers on Saturday afternoon.
“We need to rev up and we need to get the speed [dialed in],” Lee said. “We’re going right into the playoffs.”
Coach Barry Trotz said he will use about “95%” of his intended lineup for Game 1 against the Panthers in the exhibition game against the Rangers. The NHL is allowing two extra skaters for the exhibition games, bringing the game-day roster to 22, including two goalies. Trotz said Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss would split time in net.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve always looked for in a goaltender is, are they tracking the puck,” said Trotz, who has not announced a Game 1 starter, and is not likely to do so. “You’re just looking for sharpness.”
Sorokin, who turns 25 on Monday and was a third-round pick in 2014, signed a one-year, $925,000 entry-level deal with the Islanders on July 13 after spending the last five seasons with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. But the NHL ruled that draft picks such as Sorokin, who signed entry-level deals after the season was paused on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, were not eligible to play this season.
However, Sorokin will receive service time for this season and has already signed a one-year, $2 million deal for next season. He did not travel with the Islanders to Toronto on Sunday as he finished his quarantine on Long Island after arriving from Russia.