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Semyon Varlamov not on ice today for Islanders practice

The Penguins’ opponents lines are taking shape as they prepare in New York for the start of the series...whenever that is

NHL: MAR 29 Islanders at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We still don’t know when the start of the Penguins/Islanders series will be just quite yet (gotta love the NHL) but NYI had a practice today to begin their preparations after finishing their regular season on Monday.

The biggest news is that presumed starting goalie Semyon Varlamov was not on the ice today after leaving the last game of the season. After the game on Monday night, coach Barry Trotz called it a “little strain” and said that Varlamov would have finished the game had it been playoffs.

It makes sense to give him today off, given that the still unknown start date of the playoff series is still likely a few days off, the Islanders might as well take advantage of the break that they have right now.

Varlamov’s status will be interesting to watch, even a “little strain” this time of year for a goalie is nothing to forget about — as the Penguins know too well with Tristan Jarry coming off a minor injury himself.

And while Varlamov did finish second in the NHL in save percentage this season, he only started 16 of the last 30 NYI games this season. They basically have a goalie share situation and Ilya Sorokin has been nearly as effective.

Here were the rest of the Islander lines in practice today:

Leo Komarov - Mat Barzal - Jordan Eberle

Kyle Palmieri - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

The extra forwards were Ross Johnston, Michael Del Colle and the new trade deadline addition of Travis Zajac.

On defense:

Ryan Pulock / Adam Pelech

Scott Mayfield / Nick Leddy

Noah Dobson / Andy Greene

New York has Braydon Coburn and Thomas Hickey as their top defensive reserves.

Defensively, the Islanders are typically locked in with those long-term pairs, but up front is where a ton of the adjustments and changes will be happening. Komarov may be starting on the top line but is a sure candidate to be moved, and likely sooner than later.

The status of Zajac will be interesting to watch too. NYI is pretty deep down the middle and it’s tough to see him replacing any center in the lineup if health remains. Will they find a place for him on the wing as the series moves along? Or after scoring just one goal and two points in 13 games since being acquired is Zajac more firmly out of Trotz’s plans for the playoffs and relegated to a purely depth position?

As a refresher, here is the 2020-21 season scoring for NYI against the Penguins:

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of balance with four players sharing the lead with six points against the Pens this season. That just fits how NYI rolls, no real stand-outs or super-star level players (though Barzal is certainly a tremendously skilled player), but just a never-ending wave of pretty good players trying hard. Oh and Jordan Eberle scoring an annoying amount of goals against Pittsburgh. But, by all means, as long as they want to keep Komarov with those two, the better!

The Penguins practiced today as well, and someone call up Ice Cube, because it was a good day.

Now all we need is the NHL to inform everyone the official start date of when this shindig gets rollin’.