Barry Trotz has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt after winning the Stanley Cup last year with Washington and leading the Islanders to an improbable playoff berth. Even so, there were a few eyebrows raised regarding his decision to play Tom Kuhnhackl in a top-six spot over Michael Dal Colle in Game 1 Wednesday night against the Penguins.
There won't be anybody doubting Kuhnhackl's presence in the Game 2 lineup after the forward, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, had an effective 17:42 in the Islanders' Game 1 overtime victory.
"He's a winner," Trotz said of Kuhnhackl Thursday after the Islanders practiced. "He's got more rings than most of us in that room. And he's such a quality person. I thought he played extremely well last night. Had a couple of goals called back, but he's very effective. He always has been effective in the playoffs."
Kuhnhackl made an impact right away as he lit the lamp with a snipe off the post 33 seconds into the game. Unfortunately for the Islanders, the goal was disallowed because the play was offside. He had another goal waved off after a collision with Matt Murray knocked the net off its moorings.
Before Game 1, Trotz cited Kuhnhackl's experience and penalty-killing ability as things going in his favor. His experience showed on Wednesday, and he did play 1:21 shorthanded. He was on the ice for Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal which tied the game 2-2 in the second period, but he was not at fault. Kuhnhackl also blocked two shots in the win.
After Wednesday's performance, Kuhnhackl's status for Game 2 is not even close to being in question.
Anthony Beauvillier didn't practice on Thursday, but the team said it was just for maintenance. Dal Colle practiced in his spot on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, but it appears Beauvillier should be fine for Friday's Game 2 at Nassau Coliseum.