The New York Islanders are in Montreal to face the Canadiens after a tough 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins just 24 hours prior. A loss that head coach Barry Trotz called "playing shinny".
On Thursday in Pittsburgh, Trotz only made one lineup change from the Islanders 4-2 win on Tuesday back on Long Island; Oliver Wahlstrom stepped out and Kieffer bellows stepped in. And while Bellows didn't put up any production he played a strong game.
New York Islanders projected lineup: Kieffer Bellows should stay in
And look that last part matters a lot. It's the only reason Oliver Wahlstrom isn't in the lineup, it's because of his game off the puck. In 11:16 time of ice, Bellows had two shots on net, six hits, a block, and a takeaway.
But the big takeaway - for me at least - was Bellows' underrated play on Zach Parise's goal on Thursday. How Bellows heads straight to the net and drags a defenseman with him, opening up the slot for Mathew Barzal to make the pass to Zach Parise.
Barry Trotz was pleased with his game: "He was good." I have to think that Kieffer Bellows will be allowed to build on that today against the Montreal Canadiens.
What about the rest of the lineup?
Sebastian Aho could perhaps get back to the ice against a bad Canadiens side, but Grant Hutton has been doing well since being called in for Scott Mayfield. I know that he finished with only 12:44 on Thursday, but his ice time has been typically trending up game-over-game. So I think Hutton stays in over Aho.
Ross Johnston made a bad play that lead to the big 6'5" winger getting benched for two shifts. Could he sit out? Not unless the Isles make a call-up. Something that seems incredibly unlikely. The Isles won't make a call-up unless there's an emergency and this is very much not one.
Sorokin got his second start in a row yesterday so I would imagine Semyon Varlamov gets the start tonight in Montreal in the second leg of a back-to-back.
Islanders Projected Lineup