TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsHockeyIslanders

Will Barry Trotz make major changes for Islanders' must-win Game 5 vs. Lightning?

Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks on against

Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on September 05, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

Barry Trotz doesn’t coach by throwing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall.

But lineup and line combination changes are possible for the Islanders’ win-or-else Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning on Tuesday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

"We’ve had long discussions on what’s right, what needs to be changed," Trotz said on Monday after an optional practice. "I think we’ve pushed a lot of the right buttons. We didn’t panic when Philadelphia came back from a 3-1 deficit [in the previous round]. We made subtle changes and got our guys to focus on the game. We’re doing the same thing.

"We don’t want to just blow everything up. It doesn’t show a lot of trust in what we’ve done so far. It didn’t happen by throwing spaghetti on the wall and making up stuff."

Still, any potential changes may be more than cosmetic with his top trio of Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee combining for one goal and four assists in the series. The Lightning’s No. 1 line of Brayden Point between Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat had two goals and four assists in Sunday afternoon’s 4-1 win in Game 4, which pushed the Islanders’ season to the brink.

Overall, that Lightning trio has eight goals and 12 assists in the series.

"We’d love to be producing more than we have," Lee said. "A big part of our team’s lineup is everybody’s got to chip in in some form or fashion. Our line has been dry of late. Tampa has done a good job of limiting us.

"Personally, I just think it’s a matter of putting the puck in the back of the net and creating high-danger scoring chances," Barzal said. "I don’t think we’ve had enough of that. I thought our possession in the offensive zone has been pretty solid, but nothing really high danger where a shot is a serious threat."

The Islanders, in their first conference finals since 1993, hope to extend this trip longer than their last one, when they were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Canadiens in five games.

Teams have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit 29 times in NHL history and the Islanders have done it twice, against the Penguins in 1975 — they became one of four teams in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit in that series — and against the Capitals in 1987.

The Lightning, in the conference finals for the fourth time in six years, last advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, when they lost to Chicago.

"We’re still alive here," Lee said. "There’s no sense of doubt. To get where we want to go, for any team, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be all roses. We’re not going to get there by want. We’ve got to go out there and do it. Suiting up tomorrow is going to be another one of those great chances."

It certainly will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Trotz opts to make in Game 5.

His options are somewhat limited with fourth-line center Casey Cizikas out for the rest of the playoffs — and out of the Edmonton bubble — with an undisclosed injury.

He could break up Barzal’s line but likely would want to keep Brock Nelson’s line with Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey — the Islanders’ most consistent throughout the postseason run — intact. Versatile Jean-Gabriel Pageau has centered Cizikas’ usual linemates, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, the past two games and Derick Brassard was in between Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov in Game 4.

And it’s not necessarily line combinations that could be changed. Trotz also might be considering alterations to his two power-play units with the Islanders 1-for-14 in the series.

New York Sports