2:05 am: On Wednesday night in Saskatoon, Rhett Rakhshani played for the “A” squad on a fourth line with Trevor Gillies and Zenon Konopka. Tonight in New Jersey, he’s getting a look on a line with Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen.
Rakhshani, at his first Islanders training camp after four years at the University of Denver, can do the math. He’s appreciative of the fair chance he has been given to make the team.
“I feel good about my camp so far,” said Rakhshani, who had two assists in five regular season games with Bridgeport last season after Denver was eliminated from the NCAA tournament. “The coaches are playing me with NHL veterans – tonight with a pair of really skilled young players who are on the team. Now it’s up to me to make the best of it.”
Today, Rakhshani’s stall in the Coliseum locker room was between Gillies and longtime NHLer Dean McAmmond. After the morning skate, he spent a good deal of time listening to his experienced teammates.
“I’ve been like a sponge the last two weeks,” said Rakhshani. “Any time you get a chance to listen to advice or pick the brain of someone who’s been around a while, I feel like you have to take advantage. You have to remember, this is my first training camp.
“This is another step in the process for me. In the AHL last year, I realized how you have to make decisions so much faster than I was used to in college. With that experience behind me, I felt like I was ready for this camp.”
The 5-11, 190-pound forward entered camp seemingly on the outside looking in for an NHL job. His speed has caught coach Scott Gordon’s eye, and now Rakhshani has put himself in the conversation heading into the final two days of exhibition games. This is all the 22-year-old forward asked for.
“I came into camp with the attitude that I was going to reach for the stars,” said Rakhshani. “If they tell me I need more time in the minors, I’ll understand it. But I’m am optimistic person and my goal this month was to reach the highest level. When you get an opportunity, you have to make the most of it.”
Tonight in New Jersey, Rakhshani has an opportunity.
Notes: Frans Nielsen and new Islanders D Mike Mottau had a brief and amicable discussion on Thursday about Mottau’s hit that cost the center a big chunk of the 2008-09 season. The new teammates are moving on. “Glad to have him on our team,” said Nielsen. “He’s a good defenseman.”
As is preseason custom for home teams, the Devils are playing a strong lineup tonight at The Rock. The first line of Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk is in, as are Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. Martin Brodeur is starting in goal. New Jersey will rest a lot of regulars on Saturday.
Expect the Islanders to play a large majority of their NHLers when they host the Devils at the Coliseum on Saturday night. Among them will be John Tavares, Rick DiPietro (starting in goal) and Mottau.
Katie Strang reports that Matt Martin is wearing a walking cast on his left foot today after blocking a shot in Saskatoon. Martin says he’ll try to play tomorrow. Sounds like the weekend off might be a good idea for the big forward prospect, no?
Devils play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin will have the call of tonight’s game on wfan.com. Neither tonight or Saturday’s games will be televised.
The good people of Quebec City are not getting the Islanders in 2015, and it’s doubtful they’re getting much of a semblance of them on Saturday night.