Semyon Varlamov or Ilya Sorokin? For the New York Islanders, their goalie quandary is a good problem to have.
The Islanders will look to begin March the way they ended February when they hit the road Tuesday night and visit the New Jersey Devils in a battle of longtime division rivals in Newark,N.J.
Both teams were off Monday after playing the second game of a back-to-back home series Sunday. Sorokin moved into some select company by stopping all 20 shots he faced and posting his second straight shutout as the Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Devils completed a point-less set against the Washington Capitals by falling, 3-2.
The win was the second in the NHL for Sorokin, who also had 20 saves against the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-0 win in his previous start Feb. 16. He is the eighth goalie in NHL history to earn his first two wins via shutout and the first since Mathieu Garon did so for the Montreal Canadiens during the 2000-01 season.
In addition, Sorokin is the first Islanders rookie goalie to record shutouts in consecutive starts since Glenn "Chico" Resch blanked the Sabres and Minnesota North Stars from Dec 7-9, 1975.
Not too bad for a backup. Varlamov meanwhile has three shutouts in 16 starts for the Islanders, whose five shutouts are the most through 21 games in team history.
"If you talk to any goaltender or goaltending coach, they tell you one of the toughest games to play is when you haven't been busy," Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday night. "It's easy to sort of let your mind wander and all that and I think Ilya did a really good job."
The Devils' goalies have been busier than they'd prefer over the last six games, during which New Jersey is 1-5-0 while giving up 186 shots and allowing seven goals in 16 power-play opportunities.
The Devils were able to hold the Capitals scoreless in five power-play chances during the weekend series, when Washington scored all eight of its goals against Mackenzie Blackwood in just 45 even-strength shots.
"The results aren't there for us right now, but we're going to try to continue to grow as a team, as individuals, and I think right now that's the outlook you have to have," said Devils right winger Kyle Palmieri, who nearly forced overtime in the waning seconds when his shot deflected off Capitals defenseman John Carlson. "We're trying to build our game into something that we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."
Devils captain Nico Hischier, who was hit in the helmet by a shot in the third period of Saturday's game, didn't play Sunday. Islanders right winger Cal Clutterbuck missed his second straight game Sunday with an undisclosed injury he suffered against the Bruins last Thursday, though Trotz said Clutterbuck could have played Sunday if it was a playoff game.
Pavel Zacha leads New Jersey with 14 points and has at least one point in 10 straight games.
--Field Level Media