Barry Trotz constructed new forward lines trying to find the Islanders’ old form.
There were three new combinations for Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime win against Vegas at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. And the changes were more radical than the subtle tinkering Trotz had done in the previous three games.
That included having burly Ross Johnston, usually a fourth-line physical presence, starting with top-line center Mathew Barzal.
“I think we’re getting away from what we do,” the coach said. “We want to be predictable in what we do. Sometimes, you just want to paint the barn. They sort of want to pain a mural. That gets you in trouble. It takes the predictability out. Sometimes, you’ve got to reset the brain and reset the lines.”
Forechecker and penalty killer Leo Komarov started with center Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, two of the team’s better point producers.
And Derick Brassard, who settled into a top-six role as a right wing after being signed to center the third line, was back in the middle between Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle.
Nelson’s line and Casey Cizikas’ intact identity line produced the even-strength goals.
Johnston logged a season-high 12:58 and he and Cizikas’ left wing, Matt Martin, each were credited with a team-high seven hits. “It’s a great opportunity,” said Johnston, who had two good scoring chances at the crease in the first period. “Any time you’re put with players like [Josh] Bailey and Barzal, it’s an excellent chance to showcase what you can do. I just tried to get the puck back and be a physical presence.”
Johnston was a healthy scratch in seven of the previous eight games and dressed for just his 13th game this season.
Right wing Cal Clutterbuck logged 12:31 and scored the game’s first goal after playing just 2:02 and missing the final two periods of Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss at Montreal. He took an unpenalized cross-check to his face that left him bleeding.
“No stitches, it was the inside of my mouth,” Clutterbuck said. “I wasn’t feeling good at all. The trainers decided to make me take the rest of the game and see how I felt in the morning. I felt a little better.”
Forward Tom Kuhnhackl was moved to long-term injured reserve and loaned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport as the next step in his recovery from a left leg injury suffered Oct. 25 at Ottawa.
“He’s got to get his game, get his feet underneath him and hopefully he gets back here and practices,” Trotz said.
Kuhnhackl can play a maximum of three games for Bridgeport on the conditioning assignment unless he agrees to an Islanders’ request to extend it.
Michael Dal Colle and rookies Noah Dobson and Otto Koivula were the healthy scratches . . . Semyon Varlamov started in net as the franchise record for rotating goalies to begin the season extended to 27 games . . . The Islanders are on an 11-0-1 streak at home . . . The attendance was 13,117.