Ilya Sorokin is likely to start again when the Islanders resume their 13-game road trip on Thursday night against the Canadiens. This despite Semyon Varlamov, who has been activated off injured reserve, being ready to make his season’s debut.
But Varlamov, who missed all of training camp with soreness that lingered from the Islanders’ playoff run to the NHL semifinals last season, will almost certainly play at some point in the next three games.
That’s because of something Barry Trotz learned about goalies early in his NHL coaching career.
"One of the things that I learned when I was actually here in Nashville," Trotz said following the Islanders’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Predators on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. "If you’ve got a goalie in rhythm and a goalie that’s been out for a while, I made a mistake, years ago, of saying, ‘Hey, this goalie is our No. 1 guy. We’ve got to get him going.’ But our other goalie was doing just fine.
"What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter, when a goalie is out for a while, the starting point really doesn’t change. If you’re four weeks out, or five weeks out, or six weeks, that doesn’t change. The goalie is going to be the same goalie. He’s going to be rusty."
Sorokin, extending his career high to seven straight starts, made 21 saves against the Predators after being named the NHL’s third star of the week. He came into Saturday on a 3-0-1 run, with back-to-back shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against average in that stretch.
Overall, Sorokin is 3-2-2 with a 2.26 GAA and a .931 save percentage this season.
The Islanders start a stretch of three games in four nights at Montreal, including Saturday at Winnipeg and the next night at Minnesota.
"You look at our schedule, if I would have put Varly in here, then Sorokie, who I think has got a good rhythm, all of a sudden I’m taking him out of rhythm and now he’s not playing for 10 days," Trotz said. "Now I’ve got two goalies that are out of rhythm. It didn’t make any sense. We talked with the goalie department on it and just learned from past experiences.
"There’s no guarantee that Varly goes in Montreal. You’ve got a back-to-back. He’ll probably get one of them, for sure."
Varlamov exited the Islanders’ 2020-2021 regular-season finale at Boston on May 10 with a lower-body injury and sat out of the first game of the Islanders’ six-game win over the Penguins in the first round. Sorokin wound up starting four games in that series.
Varlamov dressed as Sorokin’s backup on Saturday after Cory Schneider filled that role for the first six games.
"He’s been very solid for us," Varlamov said of Sorokin before Saturday’s game. "Very confident."
Notes & quotes: The Islanders did not practice on Sunday . . . Aatu Raty, the Islanders’ top pick in this year’s draft, will join Jukurit Mikkeli in the Finnish Liiga on loan from Karpat, where he had one assist in six games.