No matter what changes the Islanders make from season to season and week to week, there seems to be one constant: linemates for John Tavares never are carved in stone. On Tuesday morning, as PA Parenteau was claimed on waivers by the Devils, veteran Jason Chimera was skating alongside the captain at practice.
Parenteau had been expected to claim that spot after he was signed in the offseason. But the Islanders put him on waivers Monday. Chimera, 37, who had figured to be more of a match with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck on the fourth line, was instead working with Tavares and Andrew Ladd, the latest on a carousel that has been in motion pretty much since Tavares arrived.
Jack Capuano did not indicate it is certain that those three will be together for the season opener against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
Still, the coach said he put the three together “just to try it.”
“You talk about one of the quickest, fastest guys we’ve got in our lineup, it’s Chimera. Talking with him, he played with [Evgeny] Kuznetsov a little bit in Washington the year he had 20 [goals]. It could be a good combination too, all veteran guys. We’ll see moving forward,” Capuano said. “Listen, we’ve got some tough decisions. We want to have a balanced attack. At the end of the day, we’ve always been a four-line team, not a top six team. We have balance throughout our lineup. It’s our job as coaches and management to come up with what we feel will balance our attack.”
High on the list of decisions Tuesday was whether to keep three goalies, which the Islanders ended up doing. The Islanders assigned Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock to Bridgeport, getting down to 23 players by the league’s 5 p.m. deadline for final opening night rosters. Jaroslav Halak was ill and did not practice on Tuesday. Capuano said he will know better on Wednesday whether Halak will play in the opener.
Shane Prince, who has been out with a lower body injury, skated with Ryan Strome and Anders Lee and said after practice he is ready to go.
Chimera, meanwhile, is looking forward to making his debut with a team he faced often as a member of the Capitals. “You see how hard the team works, you want to be part of it,” he said. “Obviously, having John Tavares on the team helps a lot, too.”
Tavares was characteristically diplomatic and complimentary saying that the options of playing with various linemates is a sign of the team’s depth. “Lots of good players to play with. You’re lucky with this bunch of guys,” he said, adding of Chimera, “I think everybody knows about his speed, at his age the way he can still skate, and the size he has as well.”
But whoever flanks the star center Thursday, there will not be a lot of familiarity on the line. “With the World Cup, we haven’t had a lot of time to play together,” Ladd said, “so we’ll kind of do it on the go here.”