New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy is still getting his feel for what will work best for his team in the short and long term. After only seven games, some experimenting should be expected, even while the team is trying to find its way back into playoff position.
After getting a preview of it during Saturday’s games vs. the Flames, Roy put Pierre Engvall on the top line alongside Bo Horvat in Mathew Barzal at practice on Monday in what would be, if nothing else, the fastest and most intriguing line combination of the season.
"I just want to try different things,” said Roy after practice. “I want to see different avenues and see how things will go. It could be short-term, it could be long-term. I don’t have a timeline on this, and I’m curious to see those lines like that."
In the third period of the 5-2 loss to Calgary, Engvall skated 3:36 TOI with Barzal and Horvat and created offense with the Flames sitting back and the Islanders pressing to score two goals. Anders Lee skated with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, the combination for Monday's second line at practice.
“What stands out to me is his size and his puck possession and protection, his ability to make plays,” Mathew Barzal said of Engvall. “I think if we’re going to be successful, we need him winning battles and getting in the forecheck, using his size. And he will. I think we can be a big combo.”
This is a huge opportunity for Engvall, who has had ups and downs during his first full season on Long Island. He started the year as part of the Isles' most productive line but then was twice a healthy scratch and has made costly turnovers when relying too much on his speed and skating by circling back in his zone when trying to avoid a forecheck.
With just six goals and 10 assists in 46 games, Engvall may not have been deserving of this opportunity, but it's right in front of him. There continue to be Islanders fans disappointed and dismayed by his seven-year contract extension. This is a chance for Engvall to score some points and change some minds.