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Luca Sbisa signing creates more competition on defense for Islanders

Coach Barry Trotz was impressed with Sbisa's play for Vegas in the Stanley Cup Final against Trotz's Capitals team.

The Islanders' Luca Sbisa skates against the Flyers

The Islanders' Luca Sbisa skates against the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on Sept. 16. Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

Luca Sbisa’s objective in accepting a professional tryout offer to Islanders’ training camp was to earn a contract. The Islanders’ objective in signing the veteran to a one-year, $1.5-million deal was partly to create competition for ice time.

“We want to create competition, that’s probably the starting point,” coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday. “We obviously felt he could help, I think he’s got close to 500 NHL games. We [the Capitals] played him in the Stanley Cup Final. You can’t play in the Stanley Cup Final unless you bring something to the table.”

The Islanders now have eight defensemen on one-way contracts – the same salary in the NHL or AHL – in training camp, along with veteran Dennis Seidenberg, who played for the team the past two seasons and is on a PTO.

The Islanders, who play their penultimate preseason game on Wednesday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, must improve defensively after allowing an NHL-worst 293 goals last season.

“That was the ultimate goal, to get myself a contract so it’s nice to get that done,” said Sbisa, who had two goals and 12 assists as injuries limited him to 30 games for Vegas last season. “Now that I’m officially on the team, you just want to establish yourself as a player that can be on a day-to-day basis.”

The left-shooting Sbisa, 28, who has also played for the Flyers, Ducks and Canucks, was on the right side in Tuesday’s practice, paired with lefty Nick Leddy. The Islanders have six lefthanded shots, including Adam Pelech, Thomas Hickey, Devon Toews and Seidenberg, 37, who faces an uphill battle to earn a contract.

That increases the competition for playing time because Trotz said his preference is to have three lefty-righty pairs. Sbisa said he hasn’t played on the right side for about two seasons.

“I think it’s a healthy competition, competition on a team is always good,” said Scott Mayfield, 25, starting a five-year, $7.25-million extension. “If you fall in that seventh or eighth spot, you’ve got to make sure you have the right mindset. You can’t get down. It’s part of the business. Everyone wants to play every night, that’s all of our goals.”

Notes & quotes: Forward Tanner Fritz cleared waivers but practiced with the Islanders and was not immediately reassigned to Bridgeport (AHL). Forwards Steve Bernier and Mike Sislo, defenseman Seth Helgeson and goalie Christopher Gibson cleared waivers and were reassigned to Bridgeport . . .Left wing Andrew Ladd (tightness) missed his eighth straight practice . . .Trotz indicated he was in no rush to name a new captain. “I’m very comfortable with just 'A's right now,” said Trotz, who has rotated alternate captains in the first six preseason games.

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