The first-day jitters ahead of the New York Islanders’ season opener on Thursday night at UBS Arena against the Florida Panthers aren’t only designated for the players.
After 11 years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, Lane Lambert will experience his first regular-season game as a full-time NHL coach.
“I think it’s like anything else. First game everybody is a little bit anxious,” Lambert said. “We just take a deep breath and play hockey. That’s what we’re here to do. “
The 57-year-old is tasked with helping lead the Islanders back near lofty expectations that saw many choose them as potential Stanley Cup combatants last season. But a playoff miss saw team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello fire Trotz after one of the most successful stints post-dynasty in franchise history and promote Lambert.
Big shoes to fill, obviously, seeing as Trotz is a surefire Hall of Famer and the second-best coach in Islanders history only behind the legendary Al Arbour
“We’ve just focused on, for us, just one game at a time, one period at a time,” Lambert said. “As long as we follow the process of what we’re doing, we think the results will come and we focus on the right things.”
That new process includes a tweaked offensive style that calls for more aggressive offensive play fueled from the back in an attempt to create more goals for a team that struggled to light the lamp. It’s a plan that has been helped put into motion by two new coaches on Lambert’s staff in assistants Doug Houda and John MacLean.
“I feel really comfortable. Like anything else, we’re new partners, too, I guess you could say,” Lambert said. “We’re building chemistry, as well. Both have tremendous experience. They’re calm, intelligent guys that have been really good for the players, but for me. We’ve been working together and I think it’s been going well.”