There's no surprise to the New York Islanders game plan. Their first focus is playing great defence and they capitalize when they have the opportunity. It's a game plan that has worked in the past for Barry Trotz, most notably when he helped the Washington Capitals win their first Stanley Cup title two years ago.
Now an Islander, Trotz relies on his whole team to buy-in and one of those players is a guy who plays big minutes at big times, Ryan Pulock.
The Grandview native is back with the team he started his NHL career with in the 2015-16 season. Since that 15-game season, Ryan has played in 159 games with the big club. Two of those games have come this season for a club that's gone 1-1 so far.
They opened their season with a loss against Washington but rebounded with a solid win on Sunday against Winnipeg.
"I'm feeling good. I got to play quite a few exhibition games that got me ready for this," said Pulock. "We had a tough couple of games to start. We played a pretty good game against Washington, we just couldn't score."
"Playing against the Jets we came out with a pretty complete effort and we were able to pick up a big win," he added.
In his first two games, Pulock played more minutes than any other defenceman on his team. In turn, he also played more than any forward on the team as well. He doesn't expect to play any less anytime soon, so that means his expectations of himself rise game-by-game.
"I'm always trying to get better and I'm always trying to produce more," he added. "I think I've taken big steps on the defensive side of my game and I'm matching up against the top players on other teams."
"I'm trying to play that shutdown role, but I also want to help out offensively," continued Pulock.
Ryan's career-high points-wise in the NHL came last year. He had 37 points (9G). The prior year he also was productive offensively, with 32 points.
"I think it all starts defensively. If I can play hard in my own end, we can stop their attack and sometimes I can hop up offensively," he continued. "Also getting chances on the power play. We struggled with that last year, so it's really important we improve with it this year and I think that will give me more chances to put up points as well."
Both of the Islanders' first two games were on home ice. With very minimal action coming in Manitoba, that means family mostly has to make the trip to see him play and that's exactly what his dad, Dave Pulock did. He made the trip to Long Island to watch both of his son's games to start the season.
"I've had support from my family and friends and other different people growing up," Pulock continued. "It's definitely special when they can come out. I think they enjoy it just as much as I do."
"The support is huge and it's really helped me push forward," he said. "It's really helped me with my career."
Pulock and the club continue their homestand tonight. They welcome the 2-0 Edmonton Oilers to town. Ryan will play in Winnipeg against the Jets on October 17.