J-F Berube is in a strange spot so far in training camp, with his seven games of NHL experience making him the senior member of the Islanders goaltending corps.
That’s because Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss are busy trying to shock the hockey world (Halak more so than Greiss) with Team Europe in the World Cup final against Canada that begins Tuesday. So Berube, along with Christopher Gibson and younger prospects Stephon Williams and Eamon McAdam, are manning the nets and waiting for the two veterans to return.
And then the real strangeness begins. Berube endured the shortest end of the stick in last season’s three-goaltender arrangement, basically serving as a practice goaltender until Halak’s season-ending injury in March.
The Islanders were considering trading Halak and the two years at $4.5 million per left on his deal this summer, but hernia surgery scuttled those plans. And now, with Halak emerging as the best goaltender among the world-class group at the World Cup, suddenly it’s looking as if the three-goaltender rotation may return to start this season.
“I know it’s a possibility to happen again,” said Berube, who made 14 saves in half a game’s work on Monday in the Isles’ 3-0 victory over the Flyers in the preseason opener at Barclays Center. “I have no idea what’s going to come when those guys get back. I’m trying to focus on getting as much work in as I can and use this time to get prepared for the season.”
Berube split time on Monday with Gibson, who spent the majority of last season in Bridgeport but was in net for the Isles’ playoff berth-clinching overtime win in Washington.
The 25-year-old Berube and the 23-year-old Gibson go back a ways. Both were drafted by the Kings and both have been working out at the same Montreal gym in the offseason for a few years.
“It’s always good to have a teammate there to push you a little bit,” Gibson said. “We’re fighting for the same job, but we get along well.”
All four goaltenders will get work on Tuesday, with the Islanders playing split-squad games in Philadelphia and Manhattan. Halak and Greiss could be back in the fold by next week. Gibson made 12 saves to complete the shutout on Monday, with Shane Prince, Joshua Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle scoring third-period goals.
“We all know it’s not the greatest situation,” Berube said of having three goaltenders. “For me, I play my best when I play a lot and I’m used to playing a lot. We just have to see what happens.”