UNIONDALE, NY — Trevor Smith raced near the left circle and fired a hard shot that hit Panthers backup goalie Craig Anderson in the chest two minutes into the third period. Making his NHL debut, Smith came close to registering his first career goal. Instead, the 23-year-old had to settle for a 4-2 Islanders victory over Florida Wednesday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
Smith was called up after the Islanders after veteran center Mike Sillinger was placed on injured reserve as he tries to recover from a hip injury that limited him to seven games this season and 52 during the 2006-07 campaign.
Wearing No. 77, Smith played left wing on a line with veteran center Doug Weight and Richard Park. The rookie logged 10:58 of ice time, going minus-1 thanks to his time on the ice when Brett Mclean put the Panthers up by a goal to start the contest.
But Smith still finished with three shots in 15 shifts while also blocking two shots. Weight, who needs just one more point to become the 73rd player in league history to reach 1,000 for his career, said Smith was impressive.
“Trevor’s a good player and a nice kid,” Weight said. “He sees the ice well, skates well. Like all these young guys, he has a lot of tools. He was definitely a good player out there today. He played well.”
Smith started the season in AHL Bridgeport, scoring a team-leading 18 goals for the Sound Tigers. His 29 points in 33 games could give the Isles hope of improving an offense that has no player on pace to score even 30 goals this season.
Last season, Smith scored 20 goals in 53 games for the Sound Tigers. Smith nearly excited the home crowd early. Weight’s one-time pass went right to Smith’s stick blade, though he fired just left of the open net nearly 14 minutes into the first period.
The 6-1, 195-pound left-handed shot was not available for comment after the game, though coach Scott Gordon said his performance was impressive.
“Trevor did a good job coming up and fitting in,” Gordon said.
Before the Panthers game, the islanders also placed Mitch Fritz on waivers. The 28-year-old grinder appeared in 15 games this season, compiling 12 penalty minutes.
The Islanders start a road trip tonight against the Wayne Gretzky-coached Phoenix Coyotes. The club will also travel to San Jose, Edmonton and Calgary before returning to Long Island to face the Rangers on Jan. 13. Gordon’s club won just two games in December and carries a league-low 28 points into Arizona, though the Isles have picked up points in three of the past four games.
“There’s a little more confidence,” Weight said. “We’ve put a little more accountability in the room. It’s shown. It’s been refreshing and we have a lot of energy.