Oliver Wahlstrom could play when the New York Islanders host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS), but the Islanders, who trail the best-of-7 series 2-1, believe they don’t need to change much in order to get better results.
The rookie forward has been available since the start of the semifinals, but New York opted to stick with a lineup that won four straight games before a 4-2 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday.
“I have a lot of faith in what ‘Wally’ can do if I put him in and he is an option for us going forward here,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Friday. “So no question we had a big discussion if he comes in the lineup or not in the lineup, and we haven’t made any decisions, so I can’t tell you if he’ll be in or not.”
New York has scored a total of five goals in the first three games against Tampa Bay, so it needs to produce more offense and Wahlstrom might be able to provide a spark. The 21-year-old scored 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 44 regular-season games and scored three points (one goal, two assists) in the first five games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round before being sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Though the Islanders are behind in the series after losing the past two games, including a 2-1 defeat in Game 3 on Thursday, they faced the same situation in the first two rounds against the Penguins and Boston Bruins, and won each series in six games. So New York has reason to be confident it can break through with some slight improvement.
“We’ve had success being in this position the last two previous times,” Trotz said. “Absolutely, you look back and we’ve been here before and just take care of business here. If you haven’t done it, you always have that doubt. We’ve done it twice already, so there should be no doubt in our guys that, ‘Hey, we didn’t lose this series.’ In some ways, this series might have just begun.”
Trotz said the Islanders have a slight edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances in the series but need to get to the net more often to create traffic in front of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and create follow-up chances. New York controlled play for much of the final two periods Thursday and outshot Tampa Bay 19-7 over the final 33:06.
But forward Cal Clutterbuck‘s goal off a scramble, which tied the score 1-1 with 2:59 remaining in the second period, was the lone shot the Islanders put past Vasilevskiy, who made 27 saves.
“You go away from that game and do we make changes or do you give that group a shot and say, ‘Hey, this is going. We’ve just got to get the next game. It’s inches and you win the game,'” Trotz said. “That’s really what we’re going through with our lineup. Where does [Wahlstrom] fit? Who do we have a little banged up that we might need duplicates if you will in certain role? It’s easy to go, ‘Hey, we’re going to mix up all the lines’ and then you have everybody going, ‘Were we that bad? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’
“Those are the things, the subtle things, do you make that move or don’t make that move, that’s the coaching part.”