Kieffer Bellows started training camp talking about how he wanted to push for a regular spot in the starting lineup.
Now, he may no longer be on the Islanders.
After the team spent the first two weeks of the season carrying 15 forwards and six defensemen on their roster as a way of avoiding resolution to the training camp competition among Bellows, Oliver Wahlstrom, Nikita Soshnikov and Ross Johnston, the Isles placed Bellows on waivers Wednesday. If he clears, he will be assigned to AHL Bridgeport.
The 24-year-old Bellows, who signed a one-year, $1.2 million extension during the offseason, had a successful training camp, seemingly winning a spot in the lineup on opening night. But once Wahlstrom was ready to return from an upper-body injury, Bellows was back in the press box as a healthy scratch. And when coach Lane Lambert switched up the lineup in Florida last weekend, it was Soshnikov and Johnston who made their season debuts over Bellows.
Lambert, who declined to explain sitting Bellows, deferred comment on waiving Bellows to general manager Lou Lamoriello following Wednesday’s 3-0 win over the Rangers.
The move is surprising, not least because the Islanders committed to Bellows for another season just a few months ago, but something had to give with the team not carrying an extra defenseman in case of injury. The Isles had gotten away with that so far by having Sebastian Aho on injured reserve, then taking him off when the team was in Florida, meaning that Salo could stay with the NHL club until it returned home.
But upon that happening, the Islanders were left with just six defensemen at UBS Arena on Wednesday, with a trip to Raleigh looming for Friday’s game against the Hurricanes.
Whether they call up Salo or somebody else, the likelihood is that they will make a move to add a seventh defenseman ahead of that trip.
In their 50-year history, the Islanders have played the Rangers as many as eight times in the regular season, and never less than four times. Until this year.
The 82-game schedule only has three Islanders-Rangers dates on it, with Wednesday’s game being the only one to take place on Long Island.
The Rangers are one of two divisional opponents the Islanders face only three times, with the other being the Devils.
“It really is [disappointing], I wish there was a couple more,” Mathew Barzal said Wednesday morning. “I feel like it should be almost automatic, having something like this a couple times a year. Just spread out, just good games. Good for the game of hockey, good for New York.”
The Islanders dedicated their press box to longtime hockey journalist and historian Stan Fischler with a pregame ceremony that included Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin.
Fischler, who covered the Islanders from their inception in 1972, retired in 2019, but still contributes to the team’s website with a regular column. Alumni from his internship program include a number of prominent hockey writers, including The Post’s Mollie Walker and The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.
This story originally appeared on NYPost