The Islanders, along with 23 other NHL teams, will open their second training camp of the 2019-20 season on Monday, almost four months to the day after the COVID-19 pandemic forced play to be paused.
But as they prepare for a best-of-five qualifying series against the Florida Panthers that opens on Aug. 1 in Toronto, coach Barry Trotz is offering no leeway to his players because of the unique circumstances.
“You just look outside, nothing we’ve done in the last three months is predictable,” Trotz said Saturday on a teleconference. “So wrap your mind around that. It’s not normal and you better focus on what the end game is, and the end game is to get by the Florida Panthers and move on. We’re going to go with the guys that are the most ready, that can help us win.”
The Islanders did not disclose their training camp 2.0 roster in advance of Monday’s first session at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. A maximum of 30 players and an unlimited number of goalies can participate in camp. Teams can bring 31 players to their hub city quarantined arena/hotel bubble.
The Islanders will depart for Toronto on July 26 and the NHL will have exhibition games from July 28-30.
“I think we have lots of time,” Trotz said. “You look at training camp. You have to cram in a lot. Our first exhibition game is usually the fourth day or fifth day of training camp. We’re going to have more time. We can slow it down a little bit. I think we’re going to get a lot of reps on the ice and I think every team going into the hub ready for the playoffs is going to be very prepared.”
Trotz called “getting a real good, strong gauge of where everybody is physically and mentally” one of the biggest challenges of this training camp.
Many NHL players were unable to skate from the time the season was paused on March 12 until team facilities were reopened on June 8 for voluntary small-group workouts.
Trotz said some of his practice foundation in terms of lines and defense pairs will come from the combinations he used frequently during the season. But he said there will be open competition for lineup spots, including the possibility of having some players brought up from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
“It is preparation, playoff preparation,” Trotz said. “But there is an evaluation process for some spots as well.”
Trotz, who coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018 in the season before he joined the Islanders, said winning this season will be just as great a challenge.
“This one is going to be remembered forever,” he said. “Everybody will know it will be the pandemic year and they’ll know who the Stanley Cup champion is. If it wasn’t unusual and you didn’t have to sacrifice, you wouldn’t remember it.”