Islanders coach Barry Trotz explained that Oliver Wahlstrom’s absence from the lineup has more to do with roster flexibility through Monday’s trade deadline than the rookie’s performance.
He sat a second straight game as the Islanders lost to the Rangers, 4-1, on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum.
"He would be able to play today, but we’re going to maximize our roster right now so we don’t have to expose anybody [to waivers]," Trotz said.
The Islanders needed two roster spots opened with Wednesday’s acquisition of forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils. Wahlstrom does not need waivers to be reassigned to the taxi squad. There is a 23-player maximum on NHL rosters only until Monday.
Wahlstrom, who has nine goals and seven assists, had played in 32 of the previous 33 games.
"I think he’s really valuable for us,'' Trotz said. "I think he’s a young player that has a pretty good impact on our game, especially our power play.
"Wahlly never really has played a long season. He’s played college hockey. You play two games and then you don’t play until the next weekend. This is a mental grind for young players. He has fallen off just a little bit, but his production is good."
Zajac’s rivalry feelings
Zajac sensed the same intensity in the Islanders-Rangers rivalry as he did in the Devils-Rangers rivalry.
"You can feel the emotion of the game," he said. "As we’re getting closer to the playoffs, the intensity is up. They’re fun games to be part of."
Isles sign goalie
The Islanders signed 25-year-old goalie Ken Appleby, who has played two games this season for their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, to a two-way, two-year deal. Appleby, a pro since 2015, was playing on an AHL contract. By signing Appleby to an NHL deal, the Islanders can designate him as their goalie exposed to this summer’s expansion draft to stock the Seattle Kraken.
The Islanders fell to 17-2-2 at the Coliseum this season and 21-3-3 in the second game of back-to-backs under Trotz . . . Brock Nelson had a goal waved off and confirmed by review as he tipped defenseman Adam Pelech’s blue-line shot with a high stick at 14:07 of the second period with the Islanders down 2-0.