DALLAS — The special memory of making his NHL debut came from the Islanders winning, not just getting to play.
So, understandably, Islanders defenseman Devon Toews will remember Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Stars at American Airlines Center less fondly. It marked his first time in the building since the Islanders were a 3-1 winner in his first NHL game on Dec. 23, 2018.
“The main thing is just the feeling of winning here last year and this time not,” he said.
He was asked if it seems like almost a year since his debut. “Not quite,’’ he said. “It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed my time.”
Toews, who will turn 26 in less than two months, snapped an eight-game streak without a point as he set up Mathew Barzal’s third-period goal with a shot from the blue line. He has two goals and 10 assists in 28 games. He had five goals and 13 assists in 48 games as a rookie, getting a call-up from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport after Thomas Hickey suffered a concussion.
Toews has been in the lineup for every Islanders game since being brought up.
“When you come in a little older, a little more mature, not necessarily game-mature but a little more mature as a person, I think you can handle things a little easier,” coach Barry Trotz said.
The slick-skating Toews is an offensive-minded defenseman adept at skating the puck up ice and a fixture on one of the power-play units.
It has allowed Trotz to have three pairs balanced with a stay-at-home defender and a more offensive-minded blue-liner. The left-shooting Toews is paired with Scott Mayfield.
“His skating ability allows him to be an offensive threat and push the envelope a little bit more,” Trotz said.
Concern for Leddy
Defenseman Nick Leddy led the Islanders with 22:01 of ice time but hobbled to the bench seemingly unable to put weight on his left skate with 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
Trotz did not have an immediate update. “It’s too soon right now,” he said. With the Islanders not scheduled to practice on Sunday, it’s likely that no information will be available until Monday’s morning skate in Tampa, Florida.
Thomas Greiss got the start as the franchise record of alternating goalies to start the season extended to 28 games. But Trotz repeated that he’s willing to start either Greiss or Semyon Varlamov in consecutive games based on performance. “I said we’ll get to that point and then open up it up a little bit, the thought process,” Trotz said. “Opening it up doesn’t mean I have to change it” . . . Toews and fellow defensemen Scott Mayfield and Ryan Pulock each had a team-high four shots . . . Michael Dal Colle and Noah Dobson were the healthy scratches . . . Left wing Matt Martin sat the final 11:11 of the game as Trotz double-shifted Barzal onto the fourth line.