Barry Trotz checked himself, remembering he had just called the Bruins a "straight-line team." Perhaps the Islanders coach did have a theory why Jean-Gabriel Pageau has had success against them this season.
"Everybody has that team that you seem to have good luck against," Trotz said after Wednesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "But he plays hard and he plays a north-south game and maybe it’s as simple as that. The Bruins play a north-south game, they’re hard to go through. They’re on the right side of pucks and you have to battle for those inches. With Pager’s DNA, he loves that stuff. He loves to battle you one-on-one and get by you and produce."
The Islanders face the East Division-leading Bruins on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum to continue a four-game homestand and a stretch of nine of 10 at home. The Islanders have handed the Bruins two of their three regulation losses.
Pageau’s late third-period goal gave the Islanders a 1-0 win over the Bruins at the Coliseum on Jan. 18 and he scored twice in a 4-2 win at the Coliseum on Feb. 13, including the Islanders’ lone shorthanded goal so far.
Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Pageau’s acquisition from his hometown Ottawa Senators for a first- and second-round pick. Pageau promptly agreed to a six-year, $30 million extension.
He’s tied for second on the team with 11 points (seven goals, four assists) after a strong postseason run with eight goals and three assists in 22 games as the Islanders reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993.
"My confidence is good," Pageau said after scoring the winning power-play goal at 15:08 of the third period in Monday night’s 3-2 victory over the Sabres at the Coliseum.
Pageau has five goals in his last six games and leads the Islanders with three winners.
"I’m just trying to do the right things and trying to come to the rink and raise some energy," Pageau said. "Bring a smile. Make the boys laugh. I’m just trying to do my best and things are bouncing my way right now. So, I’ve just got to keep going in the same direction."
Pageau’s complete package, the on-ice production and off-ice intangibles, were why the Islanders traded for him on Feb. 24, 2020.
"He’s a huge part," Trotz said. "What we envisioned in the organization that he would bring, he’s brought exactly that and almost more in some ways. It’s those intangibles, the things that he does that doesn’t get a lot of fanfare. He’s produced at a high level and I’ve given him every winger on our hockey team probably at some point this year and probably made him play almost every position except for defense and goaltender."
Notes & quotes: Michael Dal Colle (injured reserve/lower body) participated in Wednesday’s practice but Trotz said he remains "day to day." Austin Czarnik will likely remain in Thursday’s lineup…Goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to make his fourth straight start.
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