New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin after being scored on...

New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin after being scored on by the Rangers' Alexis Lafreniere last Sunday. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

Patrick Roy is not worried about his No. 1 goalie. Still, the Islanders coach knows Ilya Sorokin can — and must  be — better.

“I’m not 100% pleased with him, it’s obvious,” said Roy, a Hall of Fame goalie with the Canadiens and Avalanche. “And I’m sure he’s not himself.”

Sorokin starts on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes at UBS Arena as the Islanders look to snap a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) and re-start their playoff push. It is Sorokin’s second straight start, his fourth in the last five games and 17th in the 23 games Roy has been behind the Islanders’ bench since replacing Lane Lambert on Jan. 20.

Sorokin made 26 saves in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers at Madison Square Garden, giving him a sub-par .890 save percentage in a personal three-game losing streak.

“But it’s different,” said Roy, who entered Tuesday 10-8-4 as the Islanders' coach. “Before we were giving up a lot of 40-shot games. Now we’re giving less than 30 shots most of the nights. It’s an adjustment for him, less shots. Even the chances, we’re cutting down on chances so it’s a different game for him. Now every save maybe counts. Am I worried? No.”

The Islanders allowed an average of 32.7 shots in their 45 games under Lambert this season. Under Roy, that had dipped to 29.0 shots allowed per game.

Sorokin finished second in the Vezina Trophy balloting last season when he went 31-22-7 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Entering Tuesday’s start, he is 22-16-11 with a 3.03 GAA and .909 save percentage this season.

But Roy understands that it can be more challenging for a goalie when he faces fewer shots.

Sorokin faced 40 or more shots seven times this season with Lambert still coaching the team. He had faced that many just twice under Roy entering Tuesday.

“For some reason, you always have a chance to make up for it,” Roy said. “And when you have less, you have more time to think about, ‘OK, I just let that one in. I know I should have had one.’ Your mind is not as free.

“When you have a lot of shots, 40 shots, you go, ‘You know what? I gave four goals on 40 shots.’ On statistics, you going to be, ‘Oh, it’s not a bad game.’ But you give up four goals on 20 shots, that’s not very good.”

The Islanders’ recent swoon, which followed a season-high six-game winning streak, left them scuffling to chase the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division or the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, with the Red Wings, Sabres, Penguins and Devils also vying for position.

The Hurricanes are trying to catch the Rangers for first in the division.

“Everybody knows exactly what we have to do and how we have to be better,” top-line center Bo Horvat said. “These games are going to be tough coming down the stretch. I don’t think we’re down on ourselves by any means. But we know we have a lot of work to do. We know we have to be better. We’ve continuously proved ourselves a lot this year and we’ve got to do it again right now.”

“We’ve been saying for a while every game is the most important and we’ve been backs against the wall,” linemate Brock Nelson said. “Now it’s down to the last 15, you need to just give it everything you’ve got. Throw everything at it.”

But having a sharper Sorokin will go a long way toward helping the Islanders’ chances of qualifying for the playoffs.

Notes & quotes: Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, activated off long-term injured reserve on Monday after being out since Jan. 4 with an ankle issue, is practicing with the team, but Roy is not sure when he’ll be ready for game. “He needs to be able to keep up with the pace in practice and then we’ll go from there,” Roy said . . . The Islanders enter Tuesday’s match having gone a franchise-record 10 straight games without allowing a first-period goal . . . Defenseman Samuel Bolduc and forwards Oliver Wahlstrom and Hudson Fasching remain healthy scratches along with Bortuzzo.

More Islanders

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.