ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania — The Islanders began trimming their initial 68-man training camp roster on Friday.
Yet the logjam among players competing for spots among the bottom six forwards remains. Six candidates — Valterri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Ross Johnston, Tanner Fritz, Jan Kovar and Tom Kuhnhackl — were in the lineup in Friday night's 3-2 overtime win over the Flyers at PPL Center, plus former first-rounders Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, who are still seeking to finally crack the NHL lineup.
Kovar tied the game at 1 at 16:09 of the second period by getting to the net and Johnston made it 2-2 at 2:16 of the third period, coming out of the penalty box and converting on a scramble in the crease.
“I think we’re all aware of the situation,” Johnston said. “There’s a lot of depth in the bottom six. You have to trust your game is going to earn you one of the spots.”
Given that new coach Barry Trotz will likely use the reunited fourth line of Casey Cizikas centering re-acquired left wing Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck, that may leave just three spots available — five if the Islanders carry two extra forwards on their 23-man roster.
Trotz said he was paring down from three practice groups to two but the team did not release the names of the re-assigned or released players prior to Friday night’s game, or how many were trimmed. However, forward Arnaud Durandeau announced via social media he was headed back to Halifax (QMJHL).
“I think it’s always a good situation when there’s fighting for spots,” said Filppula, 34, the former Flyer who signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Islanders.
Filppula, who won 11 of 15 faceoffs, centered Komarov and Dal Colle on Friday while Kovar, a 28-year-old Czech who played the past five seasons in the KHL, was in between ex-Penguin Kuhnhackl, 26, who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal, and Ho-Sang. Fritz, playing on back-to-back nights after setting up Kieffer Bellows’ first-period power-play goal in Thursday night’s 2-0 win over the Devils at Barclays Center, was on Travis St. Denis’ right wing along with Johnston.
When Andrew Ladd, entering the third season of a seven-year, $38.5 million deal, is healthy he’ll only further crowd the field. Ladd started last season as a top-six left wing but Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier seem to have those spots locked up.
Both Filppula and Komarov, 31, who left the Maple Leafs for a four-year, $12 million deal, were imported in a great part to play on the penalty kill, where the Islanders ranked last in the NHL last season.
Kovar is still adjusting to the smaller North American rink.
“It’s different, almost everything,” Kovar said. “You don’t have time for anything. I have to learn.”
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Ryan Pulock scored the winner at 1:00 of overtime on a power-play one-timer from the top of the left circle set up by Mathew Barzal…Defenseman Adam Pelech had two primary assists…Goalie Robin Lehner made 25 saves as he played the whole game for the first time in three preseason starts.