Today is the first true day of training camp, with guys just starting drills as I type.
Below is a general training camp preview, with storylines to follow, young guys to watch and new faces to follow. Back with more updates throughout the day....
1.Goaltending- By all indications, the Islanders are very encouraged with Rick DiPietro’s progress this summer. They abstained from dipping into a pretty deep class of free agent goalies and feel confident in his health. Considering the stellar year he had, assume Dwayne Roloson enters the camp as the No. 1 goaltender, but also track DiPietro’s progress. This is the first training camp in recent years DiPietro has been healthy and playing on a normal schedule, so if he plays well, it should be interesting to see how the team dishes out starts down the road. Bridgeport netminder Nathan Lawson is waiting in the wings.
2.Offense- The Islanders need to score more goals, period. Although last year was a significant improvement from the season prior—the team finished 21st in the league this year in goals for/game compared with 29th in 2008-9—they still needs to increase their offensive output. More than just a pleasant surprise last year, Matt Moulson’s 30-goal season was a monumental coup for the organization, but the likelihood of another breakout performance to rival that is unlikely. Islanders need their top guys to produce.
3.Islanders Core—The Islanders promising young core—John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau—will be crucial to the team’s development, and ultimately, the team’s success. All have the requisite experience to take the proverbial “next step” and this is the season they need to do it. Consistency will be key.
****Young guys to keep an eye on in camp: Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu, Nino Niederreiter, David Ullstrom, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan.
D James Wisniewski, 26, the gritty blue-liner was GM Garth Snow’s biggest acquisition of the summer. Coming off a career-high 30 points (3 goals, 27 assists), Wisniewski not only provides the team with another legitimate top-pair defenseman but one with offensive ability as well.
D Mark Eaton, 33, the veteran defenseman’s leadership skills and experience—he won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009—will be a key addition to the team’s significantly-improved defense (Eaton will not skate Saturday because of back spasms but is expected back late next week).
D Milan Jurcina, 27, the hulking 6-4, 245-pound defenseman adds some much-needed size to the team’s blue line. Jurcina, who bounced between Washington and Columbus last year before being sidelined with a sports hernia injury, already has some familiarity with Scott Gordon’s style. Gordon coached him while Jurcina was playing for the Providence Bruins of the AHL.
RW P.A. Parenteau, 27, the former Ranger bounced between the big club and the team’s AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack last season but proved himself to be a shootout specialist. May come in handy, considering the Islanders went to the shootout 14 times last year and need guys who can find the back of the net.
C Zenon Konopka, 29, a bruising, physical fourth-line center who led the league last year in penalty minutes (265), Konopka will add size and toughness to the Islanders lineup each night. (*Konopka will not skate Saturday because of an injury to his lower back; timetable unknown).