Islanders coach discusses approach to line matchups

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Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has alluded that the home-ice advantage of getting to dictate line matchups is something that has an immense impact on the game. This is especially true against a team like the Bruins, who possess a loaded top six that includes one of the most effective top lines in the NHL.

The Isles’ third line of Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Travis Zajac has drawn a bulk of the matchups against Boston’s Perfection Line, composed of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, the team’s top defensive pairing, also have had a steady diet of the Bruins’ top line.

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Trotz was asked Sunday, an off-day for the Islanders before they travel to Boston for Game 5, whether he fights to deploy the matchups he wants.

Barry Trotz stands behind the Islanders bench.
Barry Trotz stands behind the Islanders bench.
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“I try to, but what happens if you try to change too much on the fly?” the coach said in response. “You never get anything going offensively, you’re always changing. So I trust [that] whoever they put out there, I’ll just make it hard for them. When there’s a whistle and I put Pageau’s line on the ice, they don’t maybe put Bergeron’s line on the ice, they put another line on, maybe they do. We try different things and just like [Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy], I have a certain matchup at home, he has a certain matchup in Boston, we each lost a game. Even though we had our matchups.

“You just trust the people that you have and see if you can get it done in different ways. And we do try to get cadence and we change what I call changing cadence, in terms of lines sometimes, and there’s different tricks. So we’ll try a couple in Boston here and see if we can pull them off.”

A critical part of the matchups comes down to faceoffs. The Islanders have relatively contained Bergeron, who is regarded as one of the top players at the dots in the league, since he won 72.2 percent of draws in Game 1.

“I think Pager and guys like Zajac and Brock [Nelson], they all study what he does,” Trotz said. “The biggest thing with Bergy and really the linesmen can control this, he doesn’t like to get a stick down. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the faceoffs and I’m relying on our very capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure that the cheating doesn’t go on.”

Trotz said he’s “pretty sure” rookie winger Oliver Wahlstrom, who missed his fifth straight game Saturday with a lower-body injury, will travel to Boston with the team. However, Trotz expects to stick with the same lineup in Game 5.

Bruins No. 2 center David Krejci was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for “slashing” Mathew Barzal in a sensitive area in the second period Saturday. The penalty was originally ruled a major before it was changed to a two-minute minor.

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