On the off-day prior to Tuesday’s potential elimination Game 5 of the conference finals, the Islanders … were essentially off. Thus, not a single full-scale practice since arriving at the Edmonton bubble on Sept. 6.
“We had an optional with some guys, some [other] guys were getting treatments, what have you, so we weren’t able to have a full practice,” Barry Trotz said via Zoom. “But we’ll put together whatever we have to do and when they drop the puck we’ll have to get it done.”
The coach dismissed concerns that lack of practice time might be contributing to the errors the Islanders have committed, or been forced into making while dropping three of the first four games to the Lightning.
“These guys have been doing this for four or five months and they’re playing every second day,” Trotz said. “I don’t know a team that’s here that’s had a full practice with all their players out there. You get in the playoffs, it’s about playing and maintaining, or maintenance.
“Tampa Bay practiced, they didn’t have all their guys out there. You just don’t at this time. It is harder and harder to practice and the four teams in the bubble, I don’t know of anyone who’s practicing.”
Steven Stamkos, sidelined with a lower-body injury he apparently sustained during Phase 2 of the restart and ruled out of this series, does continue to skate intermittently with the Lightning.
“He’s been skating on and off,” said coach Jon Cooper. “He’s on a rehab regimen and so a lot of days he’s either skating by himself, or if we’ve got optionals, like today, he’s out there with the guys. There are certain things he can and can’t do. But definitely nothing has changed in the playing department any time soon.”
The 30-year-old Stamkos, who recorded 66 points (29-37) in 57 games, has not played since Feb. 25. He underwent core surgery on March 2, 10 days before the NHL’s coronavirus-related pause went into effect. The Lightning had been hopeful that Stamkos would be cleared at some point during the tournament, but that remains to be seen.
Semyon Varlamov was fine in Sunday’s empty-net abetted 4-1 defeat, but the Islanders will need better than that if they’re going to be able to dig out of the 3-1 rubble.
“They’ve got a guy like [Nikita] Kucherov, who doesn’t need a big window, and he can make you pay,” Trotz said, “That line [with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat] has been good against us. So we’ve got to make sure we don’t give them a whole lot of space and when we do give them space, we’re going to hope that they don’t execute at the level they are capable of and maybe get a high-level save when we need it.”