SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ryan Pulock was scratched again on Saturday night. That’s a perfect five-for-five on the season for the 23-year-old defenseman — not the sort of numbers he was looking to put up once he made the Isles out of training camp for the first time in his four pro seasons.
“Obviously every day you’re hoping it’s going to be that day,” Pulock said after getting extra work on the SAP Center ice Saturday morning. “The D are playing well right now so there’s no reason from that aspect to change things. Just stay patient, stay positive and when I get that shot, be ready to go.”
Doug Weight has also hammered the same point home in choosing to keep the same six defensemen he’s used since the Isles’ second game of the season, their lone victory to date against the Sabres in Barclays Center a week ago.
Dennis Seidenberg came out of the lineup after the season-opening 5-0 loss in Columbus and Scott Mayfield went in. Mayfield has been very strong in his three games and his defense pair with Thomas Hickey has been lights out — Mayfield hasn’t been on the ice for a goal against yet this season and Hickey has been on for one, a shorthanded goal by the Sabres in that 6-3 win a week ago.
At even strength, the Hickey-Mayfield pair has been driving play at an elite level, albeit over a very small sample size.
“We got some work last year, training camp we had a game or two, so we’re real comfortable with each other,” Mayfield said. “You can really see it in the O zone, I think. Sometimes we both end up a little low but we notice that right away and back each other up. In the D zone, the way we complement each other, how I can back him up physically and the way he can retrieve the puck — in front of the net I’m more boxing out and he’s looking for the puck — it’s just worked so far.”
Weight hasn’t ruled out getting Pulock into the lineup for Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, though Saturday night’s game result would surely be a factor. The Calvin de Haan-Adam Pelech pair has had a few hiccups. Of the nine even-strength goals the Islanders have allowed this season, de Haan has been on the ice for six and the de Haan-Pelech pair has been on the ice for three in the last two games.
But that pair gets heavier minutes than Hickey-Mayfield against better competition. Pulock had some tentative moments in his own zone during training camp; as much as his cannon of a shot would help the struggling power play, which entered Saturday 0-for-15 on the season, Weight needs to see Pulock as more than just a power-play specialist if he’s going to play.
It’s a matter of confidence and Pulock understands that.
“They want me to stay positive, be ready for that chance and when it comes,” Pulock said, “they want me to take the bull by the horns and just run with it.”
That’s what Mayfield has done. The big defenseman, who turned 25 on Saturday, was speaking the language that coaches want to hear when he said he wanted to grab a spot on day one of camp.
“I understand what our team dynamic is with the eight D, I know we all can play and it’s very easy to interchange guys, different partners, different setups,” Mayfield said. “My goal right now is to stay in the lineup. That’s what I’m doing and while I’m in I want to do everything I can to help the team win. That’s offensively, defensively, good first passes, physical stuff, all that. I’m happy with how I’m playing. I’m happy with how the team’s playing too.”