Lane Lambert has been asked repeatedly whether there are concerns about Kieffer Bellows’ game with the former first-rounder a constant healthy scratch after being in the Islanders’ opening night lineup.
The coach has consistently replied with a brief “No,” with little further explanation, though Nikita Soshnikov and Ross Johnston getting subsequent one-game trials ahead of Bellows said a lot.
So does the Islanders placing Bellows — selected 19th overall in 2016 and re-signed as a restricted free agent to a one-year, $1.2 million deal — on waivers on Wednesday. He can be reassigned to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport if he clears.
It may be a sign the Islanders are trying to create a roster spot to recall defenseman Robin Salo after he was re-assigned to Bridgeport on Saturday to activate Sebastian Aho off injured reserve. The Islanders are carrying only six defensemen on their roster.
Bellows logged a game-low 7:16 of ice time with three credited hits in the Islanders’ 3-1 loss to the Panthers at UBS Arena on Oct. 13. Oliver Wahlstrom, injured during the preseason, then replaced Bellows in the lineup.
Bellows acknowledged during training camp this was a crucial season in terms of finally establishing himself as a full-time NHL player. He played well in the preseason.
“I think, just all around, my game has been pretty solid,” Bellows said before the season started. “It’s my compete level. Being hard on pucks. Just playing the way Lane wants me to play, that power forward that shoots the puck, gets physical, gets to the net. Being defensively reliable, that’s what I really focused on.”
Bellows spent the last two full seasons with the Islanders but has played in only 68 NHL games with 11 goals and 14 assists and has yet to appear in a playoff game.