The preseason ended for the Islanders with two so-so showings against the Rangers, including Saturday night’s 4-2 win in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
But once the regular season opens on Friday night against the Capitals at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, two intertwined reasons for optimism are the preseason production of Mathew Barzal and his top line, with right wing Jordan Eberle and captain Anders Lee, as well as a 2-for-6 power play on Saturday.
“The last few preseason games have been pretty good for us,” said Barzal, who had two goals and five assists in five games. “As a group, we look like we’re getting in sync and hopefully we can get it right on Friday.”
Eberle had four goals and three assists in five games and Lee had a goal and three assists in five games.
The Islanders did not practice Sunday, nor did they place anybody on waivers. The opening night 23-man roster must be set by 5 p.m. Tuesday, so any player needing waivers to be reassigned to Bridgeport in the AHL will be on Monday’s list.
The retooled power play went 4-for-26 in the seven games and Michael Dal Colle and Josh Bailey both buried rebound chances with the man advantage on Saturday. Barzal played on one unit with Lee, Dal Colle and defensemen Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy. Bailey, Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and defenseman Devon Toews were the other unit.
The inclusion of Dal Colle on the power-play unit and Barry Trotz’s postgame praise that he was “engaged” and winning puck battles is a strong indication that he’ll make the final cut. Trotz also liked Ross Johnston’s game on Saturday, but there is a logjam for the final roster spot or spots for forwards. Dal Colle, Johnston, Tom Kuhnhackl, Tanner Fritz and Josh Ho-Sang qualify as on the bubble, and all need waivers. Oliver Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in 2018, likely is headed to Bridgeport. It’s doubtful that Simon Holmstrom, the 23rd overall pick this year, will make the immediate jump to the NHL.
Trotz has said there will not be the traditional first and second power-play units. Instead, he’ll use whichever unit is playing better
“I thought we did a good job of burying those two rebounds,” Barzal said. “I thought the possession could’ve been a little better. There were a couple of turnovers in the offensive zone, it was a little forced. That’s why it’s preseason.”
On Friday, it won’t be.
Notes & quotes: Something to watch for Monday is the availability of centers Casey Cizikas and Derick Brassard. Cizikas hobbled off the ice, seemingly unable to put weight on his left skate, in the final minute Saturday after colliding with Rangers wing Vitali Kravtsov. Trotz said the initial report was that Cizikas will be “fine.” Brassard missed Friday’s practice and Saturday’s game because of illness.