Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss will get playing time in the Islanders’ lone exhibition game against the Rangers on Wednesday night in Toronto.
Coach Barry Trotz will then have to make the tough decision as to which netminder gets the start for Saturday’s Game 1 of the Islanders’ best-of-five qualifying series against the Panthers at Scotiabank Arena.
“Both guys will get work,” Trotz said of the exhibition game, adding how each plays will impact his ultimate decision “a little bit.” “I’m pretty close to making a decision. I really can’t make a bad decision. I have trust in both. You look at their records against our opponent in Florida, they’re both pretty solid.”
The Islanders swept the three-game season series against the Panthers, winning a 3-2 shootout on Oct. 12 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum with Varlamov making 35 saves. Thomas Greiss stopped 37 shots in a 2-1 win at Barclays Center on Nov. 9 and made 32 saves in a 3-1 win at Florida on Dec. 12.
Greiss has a 5-2-1 career record against the Panthers in the regular season with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage, including his 2-0-0 record with a 1.00 GAA and .972 save percentage this season. He was the Islanders goalie for a six-game playoff win over the Panthers in 2016 – helping the Islanders advance past the first round for the first time since 1993 – with a 1.79 GAA and a .944 save percentage.
Varlamov has yet to face the Panthers in the playoffs. But he is 8-3-1 lifetime against them in the regular season with a 2.65 GAA and a .922 save percentage, including a 1.86 GAA and a .946 save percentage against them this season.
The Islanders practiced on Monday at the Olympic-sized rink at Ford Performance Centre as each of the 12 Eastern Conference teams in Toronto will have one day on the bigger ice surface.
Trotz reported that all 30 players on the Islanders’ active roster participated.
“Every team that comes here gets one practice day on the Olympic ice and I was glad we got the first day,” Trotz said.
The larger ice surface kept Trotz from working on special teams and he said, instead, he concentrated on five-on-five rushes.
“I didn’t work on special teams because the angles were different,” Trotz said. “We got up and down the ice. It was probably a little more rush play than you would have seen during our time practicing [at training camp at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow].”
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk and forwards Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Cal Clutterbuck and Anders Lee all brought their guitars to Toronto.
“Some of us are pretty good, some are just learning,” Boychuk said. “But it’s good to have in your room. We have a lot of time on our hands, so just to practice is not a bad thing. It keeps your sanity a little bit.”
Martin Clancy nominee
The NHL announced Matt Martin is the Islanders’ nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the “player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”The Islanders’ previous two Clancy winners were Bryan Trottier in 1989 and Doug Weight in 2011.