It’s no one’s fault that the Islanders haven’t been able to roll out a consistent lineup for most of the season. They have no control over COVID-19 outbreaks or injuries, and even ignoring those, it takes time to find the right combinations.
But their front group is now healthy and it looks like they can get into any competition with a regular group of 12 men.
“I think of course we would all love to play with similar guys, you can cultivate some chemistry the more you play together,” said Josh Bailey ahead of Sunday’s game against the Wild. “It is what it is at the moment. Knock on wood, we can stay healthy, start stringing together.
Bailey has shifted quite a bit between the first and second line, but with Kyle Palmieri back in the group, it looks like he’ll be playing with Mat Barzal and Anders Lee in the near future. Palmieri is back in his old spot on the second line with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, taking Kieffer Bellows out of the lineup.
Barry Trotz would like to see the Islanders play with more consistency, especially on the attacking side of the puck. Some continuity there, at least in theory, would help.
“For me, be consistent until the break here and then get out of the [All-Star] break, we’re on our way and will have to string together some wins,” said Trotz. “Plain and simple, it’s more the consistency. Know what we’ll be as a team night in, night out. If we do that as a team, we will be successful.”
The Islanders, with just a few games left before the break, are on the brink of the playoffs, with a 15-15-6 record going into effect Sunday. With their season nearly halfway through, the margin of error is slim to none.
Defensively, Trotz loves where the Islanders are, and with Ryan Pulock on his way to full health, things can only get better. However, scoring is where the Islanders’ problems started, and that’s also where the line-up has changed with some regularity.
“I think everyone’s game allows you to make a decision or stay in the lineup,” said Trotz. “For me if you play and play and contribute at a constant level. then there isn’t much of a reason to take you out other than an injury or production. And we base everything on that.”
Trotz netted Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov in January but said he plans to start with the hot hand after the All-Star break.
Sorokin has the upper hand going into Sunday’s game, with a save rate of .926 to Varlamov’s .915, but both have had unusual moments of late, with Sorokin conceding three goals on 17 shots against the Flyers and Varlamov conceded two goals in the final seconds of a period against the Maple Leafs and Kings.