With nearly a week off to break up the slog of a 13-game road trip, the New York Islanders were given ample time to return to action with No. 1 goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, at 100% health and back in between the pipes.
The 33-year-old netminder has yet to appear in a game this season as he dealt with a nagging, undisclosed injury — allowing for second-year standout Ilya Sorokin to man the crease for the first six games of the 2021-22 season.
Varlamov has continuously been described as not far away from making his season debut in net dating back to the preseason, but after the team placed backup goalie Cory Schneider on waivers, all signs are pointing to the veteran finally being activated; potentially for Saturday afternoon’s meeting with the Nashville Predators.
Head coach Barry Trotz, as he always has, though, isn’t willing to divulge too much information on when Varlamov will make his season debut.
“We’ll go into Nashville, obviously one of them will be in the net and we’ll play it off that,” Trotz said. “It doesn’t matter when we star Varly right now. His starting point will be his starting point. He’ll be rusty… it won’t matter.
“At the same time, he’s fully healthy. We’ll get him in at some point and he’ll go and we’ll run with our goalies because we need both of our goalies to be on.”
Sorokin has certainly held things down in Varlamov’s absence, winning the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday by going 3-0-1 with a .971 save percentage and two shutouts in his previous four games.
The 26-year-old had started each of the Islanders’ first six games this season.
Despite his stellar play, the two-goalie system has become entrenched in the Islanders’ philosophy ever since the arrival of team president and GM, Lou Lamoriello, and Trotz — whether it’s been a combination of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, Greiss and Varlamov, and now, Varlamov and Sorokin. It’s worked, too, as two Islanders goaltenders have appeared in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage twice in the previous three years