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Islanders give glimpse of likely starting lineup in preseason finale

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz stands behind his

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz stands behind his bench during the first period of an NHL game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, 2019. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — And here’s the Islanders’ starting lineup.

OK, it’s certainly possible that things will change, if ever so slightly, before the Islanders open their regular season on Thursday night at Carolina. But the group coach Barry Trotz dressed for Saturday night’s chippy 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers in the preseason finale at Webster Bank Arena is expected to be the same personnel deployed against the Hurricanes.

"Very similar," Trotz said. "I’d say 98%, for sure."

So with no set time line on when Semyon Varlamov (soreness) might be available, Ilya Sorokin made 17 saves in a less-than-stellar start, with Cory Schneider as his backup. The Rangers, without top forwards Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, went a troubling 3-for-5 on the power play.

Mathew Barzal centered Anders Lee and right wing Kyle Palmieri, with Lee’s shot from the left circle giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 3:03 of the first period. His power-play goal at the crease off Palmieri’s feed tied it at 3 at 7:41 of the third, and the captain also had the secondary assist on Barzal’s deflection of defenseman Noah Dobson’s shot to tie it at 2 at 2:06 of the third period. Barzal’s goal with the Islanders skating six-on-five with 50.3 seconds left in regulation tied it at 4.

Brock Nelson was between Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey, as usual. Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom flanked Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Casey Cizikas’ identity line with Cal Clutterbuck was joined by Ross Johnston as Matt Martin (ankle) missed all five preseason games.

Johnston was the only Islander to play in all five.

"I think they’re pretty similar," Clutterbuck said of Johnston and Martin. "I just think Marty is a little older and further along. Ross is also a little bit bigger and still looking to be real physical. His game has come a long way."

Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock remained the top defense pair. Future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara partnered with Dobson, and Dobson’s former partner, Andy Greene, skated with Scott Mayfield.

"We rotate quite a bit on the back end anyway," said Greene, who played in his first preseason game. That was true during the nearly seven-minute stretch Mayfield missed in the second period after blocking a shot with his left leg.

The cancellation of the Islanders’ game against the Devils on Thursday night because of a power outage at Prudential Center altered Trotz’s lineup plans and end-of-camp evaluations. Decisions on forwards Kieffer Bellows, Michael Dal Colle, Anatolii Golyshev and perhaps Leo Komarov and Richard Panik, and defensemen Erik Gustafsson, Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho and Robin Salo, still must be made.

All but Salo must pass through waivers in order to be reassigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Hickey and Panik were placed on waivers Saturday.

It’s possible that, despite the long look at Johnston, either Panik — if he remains with the team — or Komarov could be used in Martin’s spot. Or that Martin could be ready by Thursday.

"We’re going to have to make some decisions and live with them," Trotz said. "It’s more important to get ready for the season than get that 14th forward or eighth defenseman in line."

Trotz has not indicated whether the Islanders will start the season with 14 forwards or eight defensemen.

Either way, Saturday night’s lineup meant one thing to the players.

"I think you get excited that it usually means training camp is coming to an end," Clutterbuck said. "Especially the last couple of years, we’ve been excited about our team. I think we have been throughout training camp. I don’t think seeing the lineup on the board tonight really changes that."

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