Jean-Francois Berube is a patient man. The 24-year-old goaltender hasn’t played since some mop-up duty on Feb. 6 in Detroit and that was all according to plan; he was the third goaltender in a two-man rotation, getting lots of practice work in while passing the season in a sort of limbo.
But plans change and patience can be rewarded, if you can call Jaroslav Halak’s groin injury a reward for someone else. Berube is now the No. 2 man in the Islanders’ goal and he’ll get some games in down the stretch, starting surely with either Monday’s game in Brooklyn against the Panthers or Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
“I’m sure I’ll be a little rusty, probably a little excited, but you just go back to the basics,” Berube said. “Try not to complicate things. I feel like I’ve worked on a lot of little things, technical things, in my practice time and that’s helped me a lot.”
Much like Thomas Greiss’ mindset has changed, going from a less-pressurized backup role to the starter in Halak’s absence, Berube’s mindset may have required an adjustment once it was determined that Halak would be gone for up to eight weeks.
However, Berube is the one goaltender of the three with serious, recent playoff experience — he led the AHL Manchester Monarchs to the Calder Cup last spring, a second straight standout season in the minors for the 2009 fourth-round pick by the Kings.
But Los Angeles, of course, has Jonathan Quick, and tried to pass Berube through waivers at the start of the season. The Islanders, with Halak sidelined then, gambled on a claim and then discovered they had a near-NHL ready prospect on their hands.
With the exception of a six-week knee injury and a six-game AHL conditioning stint, Berube’s season has consisted of 150 minutes of work, two full games — a 4-1 loss in Chicago on Oct. 10 and a 5-3 win over the Wild on Feb. 2 — plus that half a game of relief work in Detroit six weeks ago.
An important aspect for Berube is how embraced he’s been by the coaching staff and his teammates despite his role.
“When you’re the third goalie, you can feel a little on the outside,” he said. “The guys have made me feel really welcome ever since I got here, Champs and Dunny [goaltending coaches Marc Champagne and Mike Dunham] have given me all sorts of work and help. You can’t ask for more than that.
“And there’s no lack of confidence for me. I know I’m ready.”