Islanders look to build on success as they enter second season under coach Lane Lambert


COACH: Lane Lambert, (42-31-9).

SEASON OPENER: Oct. 14 vs. Buffalo.

DEPARTURES: F Josh Bailey, F Zach Parise.

ADDITIONS: RW Julien Gauthier.

GOALIES: Ilya Sorokin (31-22-7, 2.34 GAA, 0.924 save percentage) and Semyon Varlamov (11-9-2, 2.70 GAA, 0.913).


LAST SEASON: A 1-7-3 stretch in January knocked the Islanders five points out of a wild-card spot. They made a big trade to bolster the offense by getting Bo Horvat ahead of the trade deadline, but had to deal with several injuries, especially star center Mathew Barzal missing the final 23 games. However, they won eight of their last 13 games, and got some help to earn a playoff spot with a win in their last game. Against the Hurricanes, they suffered three one-goal losses, including the series-ending Game 6, and found themselves with an anemic power play that went 1 for 18.

STRENGTHS: Sorokin followed up a 26-win campaign two seasons ago with 31 wins last year. The 35-year-old Varlamov is in the latter stages of his career but complements Sorokin to provide one of the best tandems in the NHL. Defensively, the Islanders allowed 2.65 goals per game, fifth in the league and will look to keep up their strong play there. Brock Nelson finished with career highs of 39 assists and 75 points, and his 36 goals were one short of the career-best he set the previous year.

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WEAKNESSES: The power play struggled all last season as the Isles converted on just 15.8% of their chances, better than only Anaheim and Philadelphia. Lambert will again have to try to solve the lackluster production with the man-advantage. A full season with Horvat and Barzal should help.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Going into the second season under Lambert, the Islanders will again rely on the defense-first mentality that has carried over from the Barry Trotz days. That approach has helped the Islanders get opportunistic and timely scoring. The Islanders return mostly the same lineup that played in the first-round loss to Carolina, so there is familiarity. Horvat struggled after coming over from Vancouver on Jan. 30, but should be settled into his new surroundings and teammates. The Islanders had some success bringing up some young players to fill in for injuries, and will be looking to bring in some youngsters again. After reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals in 2020 and 2021, the Islanders’ championship window may have already closed. With Carolina, New Jersey and the New York Rangers likely to repeat in the top three of the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders may have to settle for contending for a wild card spot again.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Horvat finished with seven goals and nine assists in 30 games with the Islanders after putting up 31 goals and 23 assists in 49 games with the offensive-minded Canucks. With his family joining him on Long Island in the offseason and a training camp with the team, he will be counted on to boost his production for the Islanders.

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