Barry Trotz termed Oliver Wahlstrom a game-time decision for Wednesday night’s Game 6 of the Islanders’ first-round series against the Penguins at Nassau Coliseum, though it seems unlikely the rookie right wing will be available.
The coach also confirmed after an optional morning skate at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow that Travis Zajac would draw into the lineup for the potential series clincher if Wahlstrom cannot play.
Wahlstrom, who has a goal and two assists in his first five NHL playoff games, was shouldered hard into the wall by Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson in the third period of the Islanders’ 3-2 double-overtime win on Monday night in Pittsburgh. He needed help to support his weight as he was led off the ice to the Islanders’ dressing room. Wahlstrom’s head also was whiplashed.
Zajac was acquired from the Devils along with Kyle Palmieri on April 7 for a package that included a first-round pick. But, after playing 1,024 games for the Devils since 2006, Zajac struggled to find a spot with the Islanders, notching one goal and one assist in 13 regular-season games as Trotz used him anywhere from the first to the fourth line and at all three forward positions.
"It doesn’t matter who’s not playing," said defenseman Andy Greene, also a former Devil. "We’re all competitive and this is the time that you want to be out there and being able to play the games. You try to support him and talk to him as much as you can. But, at the same time, you don’t want to sit there and keep bringing it up and be in his ear the whole time. It’s a fine line."
Zajac likely wouldfill Wahlstrom’s spot on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line with Palmieri while defenseman Ryan Pulock would likely take Wahlstrom’s spot on the 3-for-14 power play.
"One of the things you want is good people and you’re not going to find a better person than Travis," Trotz said. "When I had to tell Travis he wasn’t dressing for probably the first time in probably 1,000 games, that’s a harder conversation. He just said, ‘Hey coach, I’m good.’ I know it probably hurt the first time. He just said, ‘I’ll be ready whenever you want me to play.’ That’s Travis Zajac."