The Islanders under Barry Trotz apparently do not have the same state secrets of past coaches. Nevertheless, it was breaking news when Trotz basically confirmed that Robin Lehner will be in goal Saturday when the team starts a four-game road trip in Nashville.
Lehner said Islanders goalies are told the day before a game who will start. His 35-save shutout against the Sharks on Monday earned him another look ahead of incumbent Thomas Greiss. “Yeah, he’s probably going to start [Saturday],’’ Trotz said of the 27-year-old Swede.
It gets a bit more dicey to draw anything into the second straight start or even suggest the competition with Greiss is anywhere near reaching a separation point. Certainly not after three games. But with no back-to-back games for a while, one successful start can lead to another.
There’s no goalie controversy brewing, Trotz implied. Asked if he’s determined to have a No. 1 netminder, he said, “I’m not determined, I just want good goaltending. I’m not determined to have a number one, but if we’ve got good goaltending, that’s what I’m determined in.’’
Lehner signed a one-year, $1.5- million contract to compete with Greiss, who is making $3.25 million this season and will earn $3.75 million in 2019-20. But performance, not money, will dictate who is in the net.
“On every team in this league, everyone wants to play,’’ Lehner said. “Even goalies that are behind starters that play a lot of games. It’s always been a competition. I think it’s healthy. The way I look at it, I just try to do my best every day. When they want me to play, just give my team a chance, do the best I can. If not, I’ll be there in support and work hard in practice anyway.
“I didn’t get into this year with an expectation other than I’m going to do my best and see what happens. That’s kind of my mindset this year. Try to contribute whatever I can to this team, no matter if it’s playing a lot of games, but of course I want to play and I have expectations on myself. But it’s out of my hands except that I can do the best I can every day. I’m still a work in progress. I still have a lot more to learn, a lot more improvement I feel . . . I know I can play hockey, I know I’m a good goalie. I’m not worried about that.’’
While Trotz had no problem naming his goalie, he was quite a bit more vague on an apparent injury that kept Casey Cizikas out of practice. Trotz said it was neither an upper- nor lower-body injury. “Just kept him off, see where he is [Saturday],’’ Trotz said. “We’ll have to make a decision tomorrow if he’s able to go, or we keep him out. That’s where we’re at, so he’s in a day-to-day process. I’m fine with him. I don’t worry about his conditioning or anything like that.”
Andrew Ladd (upper body), who did not play in the preseason or the first games of the regular season, appears on target to return against Nashville.
“Trending to be a possibility, yes,’’ Trotz said. “He has had no setbacks. He’s been fine, so we’ll see where he is, as we will with Casey.’’