It was just the first team scrimmage of training camp, a prelude to the Islanders’ looming six-game preseason schedule. So no judgments are final.
But coach Lane Lambert was able to make one definitive assessment after watching his players put the systems work of the first three days of camp into a game-like situation.
“I just think we need to play faster,” Lambert said Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow after the Semyon Varlamov-led Blue squad rallied for a 5-4 overtime win over Ilya Sorokin’s White squad. “We need to move the puck faster, for sure.”
The three-period scrimmage and first two preseason games — the Islanders will face the Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden before hosting the Flyers the next night at UBS Arena, after which the first cuts to the 66-player camp roster are expected — will allow the coaching staff to assess how well the players have grasped the system in all three zones while grading individual tendencies.
“In certain areas, yes,” Lambert said when asked if the players were working well within the system. “In certain areas we’ve got work to do. I fully expected that after Day 1. It’s the first time they’ve been on the ice in a quote-unquote, game-type situation. We knew that there would be some growing pains.”
Most of the Islanders’ veterans have a roster spot secured, but the younger prospects must prove why they deserve to be considered for the big club.
“Practice is way different,” said Arnaud Durandeau, a sixth-round pick in 2017 who played his first four NHL games last season for the Islanders. “Everything is controlled. The game is a bit more free.”
Durandeau skated on top-line center Bo Horvat’s left wing along with Mathew Barzal. Fellow prospects William Dufour and Ruslan Iskhakov were with second-line center Brock Nelson while Matthew Maggio was on third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s right wing along with Anders Lee.
Dufour scored a goal and set up Julien Gauther’s overtime winner in the scrimmage. George, who at age 19 must either remain with the Islanders or be returned to his junior team, was poised with the puck and in his passing. Durandeau had two opportunities at the crease on one second-period shift but couldn’t beat Varlamov. Sorokin stopped Iskhakov’s breakaway.
“It’s a different pace,” Nelson said. “You can practice as hard as you want — the pace was pretty high the first few days of practice — but then a game is just a little different. The scenarios make you think a little bit and gets you back into it.”
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Alexander Romanov was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons after offseason shoulder surgery. Lambert said there is no timetable for Romanov to play in either scrimmages or preseason games but expects him to be ready for the regular-season opener on Oct. 14 . . . Gauthier and Barzal had two goals each.