Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov says he's ready for return to game action
Semyon Varlamov does not know when or how he will play, but he does know this: He feels good enough to play.
"I’m feeling great right now," the Islanders’ putative No. 1 goaltender said after practice on Thursday. "I’m ready to go, ready to play a game."
This came as no surprise, because Varlamov was on the Islanders’ six-game, season-opening road trip and has been practicing regularly.
But he has not played since last season ended on June 25, and he missed all of training camp, suffering from an injury about which the team has been cagey.
Ilya Sorokin has started every game in Varlamov’s absence, including back-to-back shutouts of the Coyotes and Golden Knights last weekend.
So there is no great rush to get Varlamov back, other than to knock off the rust and return to a normal rotation before the next back-to-back on Nov. 6 and 7.
Coach Barry Trotz said he will decide on Friday whom to start against the Predators in Nashville on Saturday. If he goes with Varlamov, Sorokin will have to wait 11 days between starts.
"It’s just getting the right balance," Trotz said. "The starting point for Varly no matter when we put him in will be his starting point. He’s not going to be any more rusty than he would be now."
About that rust . . . does Varlamov think he might have some?
"Hopefully not," he said, laughing. "When you’re coming back from an injury and haven’t played in a while you don’t know how you’re going to feel. You hope for the best."
Varlamov, 33, said this is the first time in his 14-year NHL career that he missed an entire training camp.
"Of course, it wasn’t a perfect situation for me," he said. "I wanted to make sure I was ready for the camp, so I was working hard over the summer to get back and get ready for camp.
"But I wasn’t ready for camp and realized that. I just needed more time to recover. Yes, it took longer (than expected), but I’m glad finally I’m feeling good and I’m ready to go."
Varlamov acknowledged his injury lingered from the last season’s playoffs but referred all other questions on that subject to Trotz.
Trotz wasn’t much help, other than to say, "It’s not a serious injury. It is a lingering injury. There’s a difference."
All that matters now is that Varlamov is back.
"It’s a long road getting back and it takes a lot of hard work," captain Anders Lee said. "Just to see him rewarded with feeling good and feeling better and better each day, I know he’s looking forward to being 100% and we’re looking forward to having him back."
Notes & quotes: Zach Parise missed practice when his back stiffened up. "Nothing too serious," Trotz said . . . The Islanders’ practice was their first after three days off. Trotz said he wanted the players to reset their body clocks and spend time with their families . . . There was a bizarre scene when Matt Martin seemed to be giving Mathew Barzal fighting tips along the boards. Said Trotz: "I don’t know the reason for it, but I do know this: Matt did say to me, ‘Man, he’s pretty strong on his feet.’ He is. He has good core strength, Barzy. But I don’t think that’s really in Mat’s DNA. That’s not where his strength is. That’s Matty’s strength."