“They also serve who only stand and wait,’’ goes the last line of the John Milton sonnet, “When I consider how my light is spent.’’
Right now, Thomas Greiss is only standing and waiting, keeping himself ready to take over in goal for the Islanders should anything unfortunate happen to Robin Lehner. Of course, if things go as well as they can for the Islanders, then Greiss may not play at all in the playoffs this spring. And that would be fine with him.
“As long as you have success as a team, that’s the most important part,’’ Greiss said after the Islanders returned to practice Monday after a day off on Easter Sunday. “As long as we keep winning, I’m really not too worried about it.’’
Greiss shared the goaltending duties for the Islanders in the regular season with Lehner, starting in 39 games while Lehner started 43. Lehner was nominated for the Vezina Trophy after the two shared the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league. The two had similar numbers — Greiss was 23-14-2, with a 2.28 goals against average, a .927 save percentage, and five shutouts; Lehner was 25-13-5, with a 2.13 GAA, a .930 save percentage, and six shutouts — but coach Barry Trotz chose to go with Lehner in goal in the first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Isles swept that series, and Lehner played every second in goal.
Now Greiss, who hasn’t played since April 4, must find a way to stay ready in case he is called upon. And he’s going to have to do it with only practice work, and no game action.
“You want to stay sharp in practice, not let up,’’ said Greiss, who added that the mental challenge is greater in this case than the physical one. “Sometimes in practice, the rebound is quick, and there’s another shot coming. But in the game, you’ve got to follow the rebound. So, you develop good habits; you follow the pucks where they go, and be ready for rebounds… Don’t get bad habits in practice.’’
Trotz said he is confident that if he needs Greiss, the 33-year-old will be ready. The goaltending coaching staff — director of goaltending Mitch Korn and goaltending coach Piero Greco — does a good job of keeping Greiss ready, Trotz said.
“They work on [the non-playing] goaltender’s game, so when he comes back, he’s sharp,’’ Trotz said. “And ‘Greisser’s’ the guy that, he needs to get ‘tightened up’ every so often. So, I know when I put him in, his game’s going to be tight.
“And if you know ‘Greisser,’ he’s like, ‘Whatever. Throw me in whenever,’” Trotz said. “Nothing, sort of, fazes him.”
Forward Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Scott Mayfield, who had not practiced since leaving Game 4 of the Penguins series with injuries, both returned to practice.
“I feel good out there, and that’s kind of what’s so nice about finishing a series early,’’ Mayfield said. “You get some time to recover and just get ready for the next round.” Clutterbuck said he “likely’’ would have been unable to play had the series extended beyond four games. But he felt good Monday and said “I anticipate probably being ready” for Game 1 of the next series.