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Mandell: Examining Zajac/MDC as likely replacements for game six

Monday night’s double-overtime win for the New York Islanders didn’t come without cost as rookie forward Oliver Wahlstrom went down late in the third period.

Wahlstrom was unable to put any weight on his leg following the injury after his knee bent in an awkward direction. But the scariest part of the play might have been the way Wahlstrom’s head whipped after getting tied up with the stick of Mike Matheson. Surprisingly, there was no penalty called on the play.

So with Wahlstrom expected to miss some time, the Islanders’ depth will be tested, and it seems like Travis Zajac will get the call according to Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, who didn’t have an update on Wahlstrom’s status for game six.

“More than anything, if something were to happen, a guy like Travis Zajac would come to mind,” Trotz said. “He’s had many of these moments and he plays a couple of positions. I would say he’s in the forefront right now.”

Since acquiring Zajac from the New Jersey Devils, he hasn’t seemed to find a steady role with the Isles. But if Wahlstrom misses a significant amount of time, Zajac’s playoff experience could be an x-factor. During his time in New Jersey, Zajac often drew a lot of minutes against Sidney Crosby, which also could factor into Trotz’s decision.

In his playoff career, Zajac has played in 57 postseason games, totaling 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists. Three of his goals were game-winners, with two of those came in overtime. His best postseason performance came in the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, where he scored seven goals in 24 games.

The former Devils forward has also dressed and skated in the pregame warmup each of the first five games of this series as the 13th forward.

Another option for Trotz could be Michael Dal Colle, who quietly played very well when he had opportunities this season. His offensive numbers won’t jump out at you, just four points in 26 games this year, but he was a plus-1 and was very sharp on the defensive end of the ice. 

Ross Johnston also drew into the lineup from time to time for the Isles this season, but he only picked up one point in 12 games. His appeal would be the physical game he plays, but it seems that Zajac and Dal Colle would be much better options.

In an ideal world, Wahlstrom is healthy and suited up in game six. As of now, it appears they will need another option and in my opinion, Zajac will get his first start of the 2021 postseason.

 

 

 

 

Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenMandell55

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About Ben Mandell

My name is Ben Mandell and I currently reside in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I work at a local newspaper called the Times Leader, where I cover the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Wilkes University men's ice hockey, and other local high school and college sports. Here at Isles Blog, I will be providing Bridgeport Sound Tigers coverage, prospect coverage and other Islanders opinion pieces.

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