All 7-year-old Jack Foley wanted was a goalie stick. The Islanders’ Robin Lehner was happy to oblige.
The youngster, of Franklin Square, survived three open-heart surgeries before he was 2.
Jack’s mother, Lauren Kiefer-Foley, posted a picture of her son on Twitter on Sunday holding a list with hockey stick checkmarks next to “Survive 3 Open Heart Surgeries” and “Defy The Odds & Play Ice Hockey.”
The third box, next to “Receive A Stick From Robin Lehner,” was empty.
Lehner responded quickly via his Twitter account, tweeting “100%” with a heart emoji.
The Islanders arranged for Lehner to meet with Jack and hand him a goalie stick after Monday night’s game at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, a 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. MSG Network also interviewed the boy and his mother during Monday’s broadcast.
Why did Jack specifically want Lehner’s stick? “He’s been through a lot in hockey and so have I,” Jack said on MSG.
Lehner, the Islanders’ Masterton Trophy nominee for perseverance and dedication to hockey, has battled addiction and mental-health issues.
“It’s going to put a smile on my face again and make me forget about this [game] and go meet a fantastic human being and see what life’s about there,” he said moments before meeting Jack.
Coach Barry Trotz likes that opponents call the Islanders “hard to play against.”
Said Trotz, “The worst thing is somebody saying, ‘You guys are easy to play against.’ ”
The Islanders’ defensive improvement — goaltending, positional play, support from the forwards, etc. — has been dramatic. With two games remaining, they have allowed 195 goals, the fewest in the NHL, after giving up 293 last season, the most in the NHL since 2007.
Even though the Islanders were eighth in the NHL with 264 goals scored in 2017-18, Trotz described them as “easier’’ to play against. “A little wide open,” said Trotz, who coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season. “You always felt you could get back in the game. They had sort of one thing.”
C Valtteri Filppula, who has missed seven games since suffering a suspected left shoulder injury, participated in the Islanders’ sparse optional morning skate. It was his first time on the ice with teammates, though he’s been skating on his own . . . Trotz said he hasn’t considered resting players yet because the Islanders still are battling for playoff positioning . . . Before Jordan Eberle’s power-play goal, the Islanders had not scored with the man advantage at the Coliseum since a 3-0 win over the Ducks on Jan. 20 . . . Trotz moved Anthony Beauvillier to Casey Cizikas’ left wing in the second period and put Matt Martin on Leo Komarov’s line.