Pay little attention to any special teams play by the Islanders through two preseason games.
Exactly “zero point zero” time was spent on it during the first three days of training camp, per coach Barry Trotz, who said the real work begins on Thursday when practice resumes.
“That’ll be a common thing from now until the start of the season,” Trotz said before Tuesday night’s 3-2 preseason overtime win over the Flyers at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum as he gave the team Wednesday off. “I want to get the foundation.”
The first two preseason games — the Islanders also won, 3-1, at Philadelphia on Monday night — did serve as a preliminary audition for spots on both the power play and particularly the penalty kill, missing Valtteri Filppula after the steady veteran center signed with the Red Wings as a free agent.
The team is a combined 0-for-7 on the man advantage, including a failed five-on-three on Monday night, and 7-for-7 on the penalty kill. But the players were essentially going off instinct, save for brief, pre-game meetings.
And Trotz spent plenty of time in each of the two games trying out different players on the penalty kill. Left wing Anthony Beauvillier got a long look on Monday and Derick Brassard and Mathew Barzal, typically known for their playmaking ability, each were on the penalty kill on Tuesday.
“You’re going to see guys killing penalties you’ve never seen before,” Trotz said. “You’re always looking at each individual player, if they have a role. You want to give them at least an opportunity to add something to the toolbox and we’ll see who’s going to do that.
“Mathew Barzal, can he kill a penalty?” Trotz added. “If he can, he’s a right-handed shot. There are a lot of attributes. He’s got speed. He’s got skill. He can become dangerous. The glamour position is the power play. The penalty killers are the ones that are sometimes the unsung guys that have to chew on pucks when things break down.”
With Filppula, the Islanders’ penalty kill ranked 17th in the NHL last season at 79.9 percent.
Barzal and Brassard each saw extensive power-play time as well on Tuesday and Trotz will need to manage their minutes if they are being used on both special teams. They showed good chemistry with each other at even strength as Barzal went cross-ice to set up Brassard’s one-timer to tie the game at 1 at 6:52 of the third period.
Assistant coach Jim Hiller is now running the power play, which finished 29th in the league last season at 14.5 percent under departed assistant coach Scott Gomez’s guidance. The Maple Leafs, with Hiller running their power play last season, ranked eighth at 21.8 percent.
Right wing Jordan Eberle spent time on the power-play point on Tuesday as did Noah Dobson, the 12th overall pick in 2018, who is in strong contention to earn a roster spot despite seven defensemen returning from last season.
Right wing Oliver Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in 2018 who has had a strong training camp, also figured prominently on the power play.
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