WINNIPEG — The Islanders are focused on finishing off the Western Conference portion of their current seven-game road trip in a strong manner on Thursday here against the Jets. But on Wednesday, there was a little distraction for a few Isles to celebrate.
John Tavares (Canada), Nikolay Kulemin (Russia), Frans Nielsen and Jaroslav Halak (Team Europe) were named to the preliminary rosters for the World Cup in September. Tavares was certainly expected to be among the first 16 players named to Canada’s group, but there was some uncertainty with the others.
Nielsen, from Denmark, and Slovakia’s Halak have long represented their countries in international play. But Team Europe’s “leftovers” structure — former Islander Miro Satan is the GM of the team that comprises players from countries other than Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, each of whom have entries into the eight-team field — meant nothing was certain.
“Growing up in Denmark, you never think you’ll have a chance to play in a World Cup,” Nielsen said. “It’s another childhood dream come true for me. I think it’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Team Europe has seven spots still open that a couple Islanders could still grab — Mikhail Grabovski, from Belarus, and Germany’s Thomas Greiss could get one of the final seven spots, to be determined by June 1. Former Islanders Mark Streit and Thomas Vanek were also named to Europe’s squad.
“You get a mix of everything,” Halak said. “There’s going to be some tough opponents, obviously, but the pressure is all on them. I think we can only surprise everyone.”
The Islanders practiced at the MTS Centre here on Wednesday, coming off a 3-2 win in Vancouver that was far from their best but still rewarding to pick up two points. They are 4-1-0 in the first five games of this trip, having allowed just seven goals in the five games.
However, the Isles have scored only 11 themselves and Jack Capuano is still a bit mystified at some of the chances his team has passed up lately.
“We have the puck, we have the shots and we’re not taking them,” he said. “You see the goals the other night — (Cal) Clutterbuck’s in front, Travis (Hamonic) shoots it. Thomas (Hickey) shoots with Anders (Lee) in front. Hicks again with Josh (Bailey) in front. We know what happens when you shoot pucks.”
Notes & quotes: Johnny Boychuk practiced despite having a mouth full of jiggly teeth after taking Daniel Sedin’s shot in the mouth late in Tuesday’s win . . . Capuano said he had no intention to bench any of his struggling forwards. Brock Nelson had a particularly tough night on Tuesday. “Just stay patient and see if those guys can find it,” Capuano said. “We need ‘em.”
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