New York Islanders captain Anders Lee was back skating alongside Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat at practice on Monday, signaling a shakeup in lines for head coach Lane Lambert ahead of the fifth game of the season against the Colorado Avalanche at UBS Arena later tonight.
Having Lee back on the line and playing left wing means Barzal is moving back over to the right side just weeks after he talked about his preference for being on the left. However, Barzal feels it's when he's not over-thinking his positioning when he's at his best.
“I think I just have to play all over the ice,” Barzal told amNewYork. “I don’t think me being slotted in on the right wing is me playing right wing. I have to play on my instincts. When I start playing too much in the position, I never touch the puck. So I just have to make my reads and kind of play all over.”
Barzal hopes that that approach and the addition of Lee can ignite his line after a so-so start to the season. While Lee, who is off to a sluggish start, should benefit from being on the more offensively-minded Horvat line with Barzal, the duo should also benefit from Lee's net presence and ability to free up space for Barzal to create opportunities.
“I don’t even know if it’s about getting him going, but it’s getting me and Bo going, too. Just mixing it up,” Barzal said. “There haven’t been a lot of pucks out there. So hopefully Lee can bring some simplification just getting on the forecheck and slowing the game down a little bit. That’s what I need from him. He’s one of the best at that.”
There's plenty of familiarity with Lee and Barzal, and starting tonight they'll get an opportunity to show how it can translate to beneficial results for both of them.