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Islanders notes: Semyon Varlamov returns, ‘normal schedule’ begins to ‘unfold’

Islanders Wild Semyon Varlamov
Nov 7, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) celebrates after scoring a goal against New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) in the third period at Xcel Energy Center.
David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders’ wait to play their first-ever game at their new home at UBS Arena on Nov. 20 certainly hasn’t offered the opportunity for a normal schedule. 

They are now 10 games into their franchise-record 13-game season-opening road trip having just completed a three-game-in-four-night circuit that featured wins against the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets before a 5-2 loss on Sunday night to the Minnesota Wild. 

Quite an uptick in games after playing just once in a 10-day stretch ranging from Oct. 25-Nov. 3.

Yet the Islanders were one solid period away from coming out of it with a three-game sweep — blowing a 2-1 lead in the third as the Wild scored two goals in a 2:01 span to take a lead they would add onto with a pair of empty-net tallies in the final 1:47 of regulation.

While the question arose whether or not the Islanders simply ran out of gas, head coach Barry Trotz shot down any such notion.

“We’ve managed this [road trip] pretty well. [The Wild] played [on Saturday] too,” Trotz said alluding to Minnesota’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. “There’s nothing to do with fatigue or anything like that. They had a push and we couldn’t weather their storm. That’s the disappointing thing to me.”

The Islanders have weathered this road trip rather well so far, accruing a 5-3-2 record. Last season they won just 11 of 28 road games.

“We’re OK. It is what it is. It’s not an excuse. We’re fine,” Trotz said. “We’re fine on the road. [Saturday vs. Winnipeg] I thought we had a real complete game and today I thought we had two really good periods. The third period wasn’t our best and that’s when you need to close it out.”

The Islanders get another break and head a little closer to home as they take on the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Thursday.

“Once we get to New Jersey it starts to unfold… to a more normal schedule,” Trotz admitted.

From New Jersey, the Islanders head down to Florida to face the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 15 and 16 before their long-anticipated home opener at UBS Arena.

Varlamov Returns

Sunday night’s loss in Minnesota featured the 2021-22 season debut of veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who had missed the first nine games of the season due to an undisclosed injury. 

The 33-year-old goalie, who will work back into a platoon with Ilya Sorokin, made 34 saves on 37 shots in his return to the crease — a first indication that he isn’t as “rusty” as Trotz alluded to in recent weeks.

“I thought Varly was great. Varly was Varly,” veteran forward Matt Martin said. “All the talk of him being rusty, he didn’t look all that rusty at all. He made some key stops early when they had their push. He made some key stops in the third when they had their push.

“He gave us a chance to win… we just have to do a better job in front of him.”

 

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