The constant conversations between newly-acquired Islanders Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac and fellow former Devils Andy Greene and Cory Schneider have been on the ice, on the bench, in the dressing room, via text, FaceTime and phone calls.
Palmieri and Zajac play their second game for the Islanders on Friday night against the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum since being traded from New Jersey on Wednesday. It’s been an easier transition with so many familiar faces.
"It makes it extremely easier," Casey Cizikas said. "You have Greener and you have Schneids here who played with these guys for a long time. They already have guys they know extremely well and are comfortable with. It makes transitioning into a new group that much better."
The two impending unrestricted free agents, acquired from the Devils for a first-round pick this year, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2022 and minor-leaguers A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, made their Islanders’ debuts in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at the Coliseum.
For Zajac, 35, it was his first game for another organization after 1,024 with the Devils since 2006. Palmieri, 30, played five-plus seasons with the Devils.
"We talked about it a lot," Palmieri said. "To just enjoy it. We’re not going to get everything down right away. But to try and get better every game and try to fit into this group and be a positive impact on a group that’s played a lot of great hockey this year. It’s super exciting for us."
Schneider is the Islanders’ third goalie this season after being bought out by the Devils. Greene was acquired prior to last season’s trade deadline after he, like Zajac, had played only for the Devils since 2007.
Zajac waived his no-movement clause to accept the trade, something he was unwilling to do last season.
"I spoke to him a little bit about my experience through it and how the different scenarios can play out," Greene said. "Make sure he’s ready. Don’t just do it to make a decision, make sure you’re mentally ready for it and just be ready for the opportunity. He has to look out for himself at that point and his family. It’s a decision you don’t take lightly after being in one place for so long. You don’t know what could happen on the other side."
"He speaks highly of the team, of the coaches, of the staff, the players," Zajac said of Greene. "You see the success he’s had this last year and how he’s playing. It’s exciting to get back in action with him."
Zajac said being traded along with Palmieri was an important factor.
"Going with Palms, knowing what he brings, the type of player he is, he’s going to help the team," Zajac said. "It’s nice going to a situation where you have something to lean on and not only having played with Greener and Schneids, having Palms there is going to be big, too."
Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who ran the Devils from 1987-2015, was looking to offset the loss of captain and top-line left wing Anders Lee to a season-ending torn right anterior cruciate ligament on March 11.
Palmieri brings a similar hard edge in getting his body to the crease and, like Lee, is strong on the power play.
"There’s no one that can replace Leesy," Greene said. "Kyle does bring an edge to the game, a little sandpaper, goes to the dirty areas and gets involved there. You need those guys because the games start to tighten up and every inch is a battle."