Semyon Varlamov will not play on Thursday night against the Devils at Prudential Center, nor in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Rangers on Saturday night in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
That’s not surprising given the goalie has not practiced with teammates since the Islanders opened training camp on Sept. 23 as he recovers from what the team has termed "soreness."
But coach Barry Trotz on Wednesday gave the strongest indication yet that Varlamov’s status for the season opener at Carolina on Oct. 14 was very much in doubt.
"Varly’s not going to play tomorrow night and very unlikely to play against the Rangers, right now," Trotz said after twin practices at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "We’re probably really looking at the Carolina game right now. We’re working that way. He’s just getting back on the ice so we’re going to take our time. Right now, the window’s getting a little short for Varly for even opening night."
Per Islanders team statistician Eric Hornick, Varlamov has started his team’s season-opener in each of the past 10 seasons, including his tenure with the Avalanche. Only the Kings’ Jonathan Quick has a longer active streak at 12 seasons.
Trotz said Ilya Sorokin and Cory Schneider would be the Islanders’ goalie tandem for the final two preseason games, adding Sorokin will get as much time as needed. Schneider made 24 saves in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Flyers in Bridgeport and was the first goalie to play a complete game this preseason.
"The first priority is the No. 1 goalie, that’s Sorokin," Trotz said. "So, whatever he needs he’s going to get. Until Varly is back in the fold, our priority will be Sorokin all the way."
All along, Trotz has insisted the Islanders are being deliberately cautious with Varlamov and would keep him sidelined until he’s 100% healthy rather than risk a nagging injury persisting through the season.
Varlamov, entering the third season of a four-year, $20 million deal, has been the primary playoff goalie as the Islanders have reached the NHL semifinals two straight seasons before losing each time to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Lightning.
He went 19-11-4 last season with a team-record 2.04 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage last season and seven shutouts, tying Chico Resch’s team record. He was 7-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .922 save percentage in the playoffs after exiting the regular-season finale at Boston with an unspecified strain.
Notes & quotes: Matt Martin (ankle), who has yet to play in the preseason, continued to skate with teammates, and Trotz said he was "pretty close…" Defense prospect Samuel Bolduc (soreness) has also begun practicing. "He’s going well," Trotz said. "It’s just going to be a little bit of the conditioning stuff…" Forwards Andy Andreoff, Cole Bardreau, Austin Czarnik, Otto Koivula and Dmytro Timashov, defensemen Grant Hutton, Paul LaDue, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon and goalie Ken Appleby were placed on waivers. They can be re-assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport if not claimed.