Preseason on the horizon
Islanders rookies report Saturday, the rest of the team begins Sept. 16
Wednesday, 09.7.2011 / 4:19 PM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
“I haven’t changed too much (from years past),” said Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. “I keep working on strengthening my legs and core. I try to keep improving my skating and I work on my overall form to make sure I can stay consistent for the whole year.”
Over the course of the last few weeks, players have trickled back to Long Island where they’ve begun informal workouts at Iceworks, the team’s training facility in Syosset.
“I like being here and seeing the guys,” Nielsen said. “You don’t see too many of them during the summer, especially when you’re the only guy from Denmark. It’s a little far from here (laughs). I saw some of the guys earlier in the summer, but you’re mostly just by yourself without your teammates, so it’s always fun to be back, talking to them and hearing stories about their summers.”
Wednesday morning, more than 25 players dressed for an informal skate, run by defenseman Mike Mottau. He’s not the new team captain, as the Islanders captain hasn’t been decided yet, but each day someone new takes the reins.
“We just have someone put drills together to have a little structure to the practice,” Mottau said. “So I just tried to keep it up-tempo with some flow drills and some two-on-ones and then we scrimmaged. We had a pretty good skate yesterday, so we didn’t do any conditioning today. I thought with the practice and the skate, we got enough skating in.”
Tomorrow, they’ll pick up the pace again, with more conditioning drills designed to get the players ready for their big conditioning test during camp. And before we know it, the season will be under way. The team’s training camp begins in just nine days and rookies report early Saturday morning.
“I guess, especially when you miss the playoffs, it’s a lon
I guess, especially when you miss the playoffs, it’s a long, long summer and you just can’t wait to get going again. It’s been too long. You miss the game. The closer it gets, the more exciting it gets. You just want to get going. - Frans Nielseng, long summer and you just can’t wait to get going again,” Nielsen said. “It’s been too long. You miss the game. The closer it gets, the more exciting it gets. You just want to get going.”
Mottau is excited for more than the season. He spent a majority of last season at home on the couch or sitting in the press box, away from the team.
“Last year was a really difficult year injury-wise,” Mottau said. “I have my health. I’m extremely excited to get here and get settled.”
He added, “Seeing a lot of guys for the first time since last season is great, but now I’m a part of it. Before, it was just guest appearances here and there. It’s difficult when you’re not in the lineup and you see the guys going through the ups and downs of the season.”
The Islanders prospects will get a little jump on their veteran counterparts as they compete in two rookie games at Nassau Coliseum against the Boston Bruins early next week. The reigning Stanley Cup Champions’ prospects will bring a lot to the table in their preseason matchup with the Islanders rookies, but Rhett Rakhshani, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers leading scorer last season, isn’t worried.
“I think we have a really good team,” Rakhshani said. “We have a lot of the same guys that were here last year and a couple new faces that are really going to add a lot, so we have a good group. I know pretty much everyone. There’s a lot of really good talent out there, so I’m excited to play with them.”
Some of those faces who have already arrived on Long Island include Nino Niederreiter, Aaron Ness, Matt Donovan and David Ullstrom.
Last year’s rookie game was a physical one as players were trying to establish a name for themselves. Niederreiter, the Isles fifth overall selection in 2010, got into the first fight of his life, sticking up for Ullstrom, who was making his North American debut.
By game’s end, the Islanders rookies fell 5-2 in Boston’s TD Garden. This year, they’ll have a chance to respond in a back-to-back set at the Coliseum.
“Their level of play was definitely higher than expected, but it was what it was,” Niederreiter said. “Unfortunately we lost there, so it’s not a good memory. I had my first little wrestling match, I believe against (Tyler) Randell, but it was definitely fun.”
Getting even might be one driving force, but the Isles rookies will really be trying to showcase their skills.
“It’s the future of the Bruins and the Islanders, so it’s always a great game and it’s always nice to play a game against a team that is battling for the same thing you are,” Niederreiter said.
Rakhshani added, “It’s a lot of guys’ first training camp experience, some guys not. Everyone is trying to make a good impression, so it’ll be a good tempo for sure.”