9:30 pm, NVMC: The strangest training camp and preseason schedule in franchise history mercifully ended tonight as the Islanders’ A team defeated New Jersey 2-1 at the Coliseum while the B squad lost to Montreal 7-2 at Le Colisee. The team completed the exhibition season 1-4.
In New York, birthday boy Josh Bailey and Zach Parise traded first period goals – Bailey’s off a spinaround feed from Doug Weight (looking sharp), Parise on a goal set up by the Islanders paying most of their attention to the dazzling Ilya Kovalchuk. On a penalty shot in the first, Kovalchuk hit the post with a backhander.
Blake Comeau scored off a terrific centering pass by John Tavares to make it 2-1 with 2:35 left in the second period. Rick DiPietro was good in goal, under control. So far it looks like his health is intact. Mike Mottau was every bit as solid defensively as advertised. Not bad after just one full practice. Minus Martin Brodeur, the Devils played most of their regulars, so it was a good performance by the home team.
In Quebec City, Mike Cammalleri lost his cool in the second period and injured 2010 fifth overall pick Nino Niederreiter. According to Sun columnist Chris Stevenson, who was at the game, Cammalleri cross-checked Niederreiter and then slashed him in the back of the leg. Niederreiter suffered a leg bruise, not a major injury. In revenge, Jeremy “Yabo” Yablonski MMAed it up in the third. Cool.
Otherwise, the outcome was what you’d expect when the Islanders sent their B lineup. According to a scout in attendance, the following players did not look out of place: youngsters Niederreiter (nice play on NYI’s first goal before injury), David Ullstrom, Jesse Joensuu and Travis Hamonic and veteran Jon Sim. Camp invitee Manny Legace got the start in goal over prospect Mikko Koskinen, but that might have been a decision of mercy for the youngster against the veteran Habs lineup. Koskinen played the third period.
After the team’s Adventureland outing with fans on Sunday, the Islanders have five full days to practice with their complete roster before the season opener. Coach Gordon is going to like that.
No more split-squad games. Farewell to most of the players who joined training camp more than half-way through just to fill out a preseason game lineup and hope a scout noticed them. By the time it was 7-1 in the third period in Quebec City, you had to wonder if it was worth it to them. So long to several Islanders’ depth players who never would have made it this far in camp if the Islanders didn’t need 40 players to suit up on Wednesday and tonight. These last two weeks were awkward, pointless and not particularly productive. The good news is Gordon and the Islanders have all week to figure out what they are.
Over the next 24 hours, GM Garth Snow, scouts such as pro director Ken Morrow and Gordon will make drastic cuts to the training camp roster. It’s possible that the team could immediately go all the way down to just the 22-23 players they’ll need when the regular season opens at the Coliseum on Saturday against Dallas. The cuts should be known by Monday, if not during your NFL Sunday.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the competition:
On the team (2): Rick DiPietro, Dwayne Roloson
Under consideration (0): If the above pair are healthy, no one.
On the team (7): Mark Eaton, Jack Hillen, Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Radek Martinek, Mike Mottau, James Wisniewski
Under consideration (2): Calvin de Haan, Bruno Gervais. Expect the Islanders to do right by Travis Hamonic and give him development time in Bridgeport. With more offensive skills, de Haan could get a longer look. There are still eight D (not including Mark Streit) on one-way contracts.
On the team (10): Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Trent Hunter, Zenon Konopka, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, PA Parenteau, Rob Schremp, John Tavares, Doug Weight
Under consideration (7): Trevor Gillies (who looks like he’ll be the enforcer-on-call), Andy Hilbert, Jesse Joensuu, Matt Martin, Nino Niederreiter, Rhett Rakhshani, Jon Sim. Like Hamonic, David Ullstrom could use some work in the AHL.
From this viewpoint, the top 30 players in camp played well. Nobody made a grand stand to win a roster spot. No one played poorly enough to take themselves out of consideration. It was that kind of camp. My hunch is the final roster spots will be determined not by performance, but by what Snow and Gordon want their team to be.
Notes: After Swiss newspaper Blick announced Mark Streit‘s shoulder surgery, the Islanders confirmed that both Streit and Kyle Okposo had successful procedures at the Cleveland Clinic on Friday.
The Islanders made three more cuts tonight: Robin Figren and goalies Kevin Poulin and Joel Martin.
Comments on Saturday’s games and the impending roster moves are welcomed.