Josh Ho-Sang has never gone about things quietly. But now that the Islanders’ flashy young winger was called up from AHL Bridgeport on Sunday, it’s to be seen how he deals with his new situation.
It was very likely that was going to start with a healthy scratch Monday night, when the Isles went back to the Coliseum for their second game there this season, playing host to the Penguins. Having put up two goals and 22 points in 26 games with the Sound Tiger this season, the 22-year-old Ho-Sang was called up as insurance just in case one of the other Islanders’ forwards couldn’t play.
But putting in long work at an optional skate Monday morning showed Ho-Sang was not expected to play. And head coach Barry Trotz hardly feels any pressure to put him in the lineup for however long he is up with the big club.
“Zero. I have zero pressure to put him in the lineup,” Trotz said. “You can’t go in going, ‘I’ve got to get this guy in the lineup because, what? He’s got two goals in the AHL, or he’s a prospect or where he was drafted?’ We don’t work that way.”
Ho-Sang was taken by the Islanders with the 28th-overall pick in 2014, and then infamously overslept for his first training camp, with then-general manager Garth Snow making him run the stairs at the Coliseum before sending him back to his junior club. During the ensuing years, he has played 43 games in the NHL and shown flashes of brilliant on-ice talent while also having a penchant for speaking his mind — like he did with The Post a few weeks ago when he said he thought he wasn’t getting a fair shake from management or his AHL coaches.
“We feel he had to stake a step back and grow, on and off the ice,” Trotz said. “I think he’s done that. And now the process is: Can he step forward? If he’s in, play well. If he’s not, then how do you react to that?”
The hope from the Islanders is that the Coliseum was going to be as raucous as it was for the first game back on Dec. 1, a wild 3-2 comeback win over the Blue Jackets in front of a sold-out Saturday night crowd of 13,917.
“It’s not going to be a Saturday night crowd, which has an extra amount of energy and influence by outside sources in the tailgating and everything like that,” Trotz said, smiling. “But I think it’s a good rival in Pittsburgh and it should be a good atmosphere. We’re going to need all their energy and support like they gave us the other night in the first game back.”
Robin Lehner was set to get the start in nets, his first start since a 2-1 shootout loss in Boston on Nov. 29, after which he suffered an ambiguous “tweak.” Goalie Christopher Gibson had been returned to Bridgeport on Sunday after a brief call-up in the wake of Lehner’s injury.
Winger Tom Kuhnhackl was set to miss his second straight game with an undisclosed injury, while rugged forward Ross Johnston would remain in.