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The time is now

Islanders young talent head to Boston, hope to stand out

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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The time is now
The New York Islanders are set to play in their first exhibition game of the 2011 preseason against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, Friday night at TD Garden. After winning a championship, a city rallies behind their team and the first home game of the season – preseason or otherwise – is nearly guaranteed to be a sellout.

“The building should be pretty awesome,” said defenseman Dylan Reese. “This is their first home game after winning the Cup, so I can imagine it will be a pretty good crowd, energetic. We have a lot of young guys playing, some of them getting their first taste. I think we’re just excited to get going.”

Dylan Reese #42 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on April 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
With two games in as many nights, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano spoke with General Manager Garth Snow and split the 50-man roster in half. This way, each player (excluding the injured) will have the chance to see some ice time and show management and the coaching staff why they deserve a spot in the Opening Night lineup.

“We prepared,” Capuano said. “Now they’re trying to win a job. There are spots available. They’re there for the taking. We have these five games and I know in training camp, it’s not as physical as it once was, but now the bodies will be flying. Guys are going to do everything they can to make our hockey team.”

The way the pack was divided, Friday night’s roster is loaded with players on the cusp, players that need to shine if they want a chance to make the club. Mike Mottau – a Boston native – will be the only defenseman with a one-way contract to suit up against his hometown team. Although, Capuano said that no one is safe. Not even the veterans.

The young kids have just as good a chance as some of the older guys, it’s just a matter of where we see them after the five games. Is Bridgeport going to be a place we feel they’re going to develop and help this organization in the future or is their time now? That is a decision that Garth (Snow) and management will sit down and talk about. - Jack Capuano
“The young kids have just as good a chance as some of the older guys, it’s just a matter of where we see them after the five games,” Capuano said. “Is Bridgeport going to be a place we feel they’re going to develop and help this organization in the future or is their time now? That is a decision that Garth (Snow) and management will sit down and talk about.”

Also defending the blueline Friday will be Steve Staios, who is on a tryout; Reese, Calvin de Haan, Ty Wishart and Matt Donovan. The latter four defensemen are all signed to two-way contracts.

“There is definitely healthy competition, no question, with all the youth,” said Reese, who spent time as a call-up in both of the last two seasons. “There are a lot of young guys who look great so far and the guys that were here last year, coming back from injury, haven’t missed a beat. So it’s healthy competition. There is no hostility between anybody. We’re all teammates at the end of the day. It’s just a matter of playing well for the team and for yourself.”

Islanders forward Blake Comeau remembers what it was like coming to camp and trying to earn a spot. In his first three seasons with the franchise, the sixth-year Islander spent considerable time floating between the minors and the NHL.

“It was obviously nerve-racking when you get to your first couple pro camps and you see some of the players you grew up watching,” Comeau said. “I guess the biggest thing is you have to go out and play with confidence and play the way that you know how to play.”

About to begin his third full NHL season, Comeau will be one of the longest-tenured Islanders to dress Friday, but that doesn’t mean he should be complacent.

“I think everyone has to compete hard,” Comeau said. “I don’t think any of them can get comfortable. There is always someone trying to compete for a spot, so I think that’s part of the whole exhibition process, is to show that you can play and go out and compete. Everyone is playing for a reason.”

Rick DiPietro #39 of the New York Islanders looks on during warm-ups prior to their game against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 24, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Thrashers defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Everyone, including goaltender Rick DiPietro, who said he’s learned a lot in the last three years.

“As bad as it was being injured, it really gives you an opportunity to sit back and realize how lucky you are,” DiPietro said. “Every time I get a chance to play an exhibition or any kind of NHL game, is a huge thrill.”

Competing against the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup Champs in his first game of the preseason will not affect DiPietro’s approach. He’s got one thing on his mind and that’s proving he’s worthy of the number one spot.

“It’s an exhibition game, so the main focus is feeling comfortable, working on getting a chance to work on communication with the defensemen, our PK and all those little things you have to fine tune before the season starts,” DiPietro said.

No matter what the situation, the Islanders goalie loves going back home to play.

He said, “I enjoy every time I get the chance to play back in Boston, but this is exciting because this is the first exhibition game and an opportunity to put all our hard work over the summer to the test.”




1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Tavares 46 17 19 -4 36
K. Okposo 47 12 24 -9 36
B. Nelson 49 20 11 1 31
F. Nielsen 49 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 49 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 48 8 15 5 23
A. Lee 49 7 14 1 21
N. Leddy 49 3 16 -12 19
R. Strome 38 5 13 -6 18
N. Kulemin 49 5 9 6 14
J. Halak 12 10 4 .921 2.18
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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