With 6:20 to go in Thursday night’s game in Vancouver and the Islanders ahead by a goal, Doug Weight was starting to look for his forwards who, in his words, “have identities.” He meant the guys like Nikolay Kulemin and Cal Clutterbuck, the forwards who will be hard on opponents with the puck and simple with said puck once they get possession.
Weight sent Kulemin out, but his other two choices were eyebrow-raising: Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang. A 19-year-old and a 21-year-old in his fifth NHL game.
The Islanders’ coach was dealing with two forwards who were banged up, so he didn’t have his pick of players who would eat clock and not get the team into trouble. But he didn’t hesitate to send his two youngest and least experienced forwards over the boards and that line did the job, ragging off a solid minute in the Canucks zone before coming off.
The Islanders surrendered the tying goal with 19.3 seconds to go in regulation with all the veterans Weight wanted on the ice before Andrew Ladd scored in overtime. But in a must-win game, Weight’s move to the two kids showed a real trust and could be important for the Islanders going forward.
“Dougie definitely recognizes if we’re going to do anything in the long run, we need everybody to be able to play in a lot of different situations,” Ho-Sang said. “Beau had the big goal and away from the puck he was tremendous, too. Dougie’s putting me in situations I’ve never really been in before, just because of the confidence he’s trying to instill in me and teach me how to manage the game.”
Beauvillier went out for another shift with three minutes to go to give John Tavares a bit of a break. Coupled with his nifty breakaway goal to tie the game at 2-2 in the second, it was another strong night for the teenaged center.
“I couldn’t get him on the ice enough,” Weight said. “We had a couple guys that were a little banged up so it was probably a little strange from the outside looking in. Beau had to step up and played really well.”
The Islanders finish off their nine-game road trip in St. Louis on Saturday. They did not call anyone up from Bridgeport on Friday, so those banged-up forwards will likely play on. And Weight knows if he needs Beauvillier or Ho-Sang late, there’s something to build off.
“I feel good with them,” Weight said. “Believe me, I’m coaching to win a game, so I don’t care if feelings are hurt or whatever. But when I look down the bench and see 66 (Ho-Sang) — he hasn’t warranted anything to be stuck there.”