SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s a matter of trust when it comes to Otto Koivula.
The rookie center was in the lineup for a fourth straight game as the Islanders lost, 2-1, in overtime to the Sharks on Saturday night at SAP Center. He logged a season-low 6:32 of ice time after averaging 7:49 in his first three career NHL games.
That does not wholly reflect how coach Barry Trotz is grading his play. “I trust him in the defensive zone more than anything,” he said. “He’s really sound in the defensive zone.”
The 21-year-old Finn is in his second season in North America after being picked in the fourth round in 2016. He’s still looking for his first NHL point but is enjoying his first trip to the West Coast. “It’s nice weather,” he said, comparing it to his home country. “Finland, Sweden, Norway, just cold. This is new for me.”
But the newness of being in the Islanders’ lineup is starting to wear off, which is a good thing. Koivula continued to center Josh Bailey and Michael Dal Colle on Saturday.
“The nerves are down right now. I feel like I can play my own game,” said Koivula, who took his first NHL shot Saturday. “I’ve been playing good in the system. I just have to get the confidence and generate some offense because that’s what I’m good at.”
“Everything closes down quicker at this level,” Trotz added. “He feels like he’s got more time and space with the puck than probably he really does. If there’s anything that’s gotten him in trouble in the few games, it’s that. But I have a lot of trust in putting him on the ice.”
Brock Nelson and Derick Brassard each had a five-game point streak snapped . . . Leo Komarov, Ross Johnston and Noah Dobson remained healthy scratches . . . The Islanders will not practice on Sunday before continuing their road trip on Monday night in Anaheim.