Jack Capuano didn’t say who was in for the New York Islanders for Game 1 (7 p.m., NBCSN, CBC) against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he did say who was out.
“It’s too early [to tell],” Capuano said of his Game 1 lineup. “We need to see the health of a few guys and see where we stand.”
Josh Bailey (upper body) did not travel with the team to Tampa Bay and will not suit up on Wednesday night. Bailey suffered the injury in the first period of Sunday’s Game 6 and did not return.
Ryan Pulock, who suffered an upper-body injury on April 20, did make the trip.
On the Lightning side, Steven Stamkos was sporting a red non-contact jersey at morning skate, while Anton Stralman did not take the ice. Neither will play against the Islanders in Game 1.
The New York Islanders made three transactions over the past 24 hours. On Monday night, Ryan Pulock (upper body) was put on IR retroactive to April 20, while James Wright was recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. On Tuesday morning, the Islanders returned Christopher Gibson to Bridgeport.
Pulock had three points (1G, 2A) in four playoff games prior to his injury. He was expected to miss 1-2 weeks and is currently at the one week mark in his recovery.
Wright – who was Bridgeport’s third leading scorer with 41 points (14G, 27A) this season – was recalled in the wake of Josh Bailey’s injury suffered in Game 6. A timetable for Bailey has not been established. Gibson, who’s first NHL win helped the Islanders clinch a playoff berth, will join the Sound Tigers in the middle of a playoff series, as they get set for Game 3 against the Toronto Marlies on Thursday.
No surprise here, but Thomas Greiss gets the start in goal for the New York Islanders in Game 6. Greiss is coming off a career-high 47-save, double-overtime win on Friday night in Game 5 and will look to help the Islanders advance to the second round for the first time since 1993.
Capuano did not divulge his forward lines or defensive pairs, so it’s unknown whether Ryan Strome will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Friday.
“I’m not going to elaborate too much on our lineup,” Capuano said. “Greiss will be in net. The guys that played the last game I thought competed hard and that’s what we’re looking for especially against teams that are desperate.”
The Islanders know what a big opportunity they have in front of them on Sunday night, a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Everyone knows how tough it is to advance, whether it’s the homegrown Islanders learning through the pain of last season, or veterans like Johnny Boychuk who have won a Stanley Cup.
Not a lot has to be said in the room and while the Islanders technically have two kicks at the can to finish this series off, they want to take care of business in Game 6.
“No it doesn’t [come along everyday], but you have to take advantage of it when it does come,” Boychuk said. “They are a great team and it’s been a good series so far. We have a chance to move on today and we have to make sure to take advantage of it. It’ll be a lot easier winning at home than winning on the road.”
"We're excited. For us it's just staying in the moment & staying composed. We have a great opportunity tonight." pic.twitter.com/okqCPP5JAx— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 24, 2016
According to NHL.com, Nick Bjugstad did not travel to Brooklyn and will not play in Sunday’s Game 6. Bjugstad had four points (2G, 2A) in the first five games of the series. Logan Shaw will play center on the third line while Derek MacKenzie will be the fourth pivot.
Ryan Pulock’s playoffs are currently being put on hold.
The rookie defenseman will be sidelined for 1-2 weeks with an upper-body injury, suffered in the third period of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Panthers. His return to the lineup likely depends on whether or not the Islanders advance to the second round.
"He’ll probably be out for the rest of the series, don’t know how long. First indication was 1-2 weeks with upper body," Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s just tough to lose another guy. He was really playing well for us as a young guy and really coming into his own.”
Pulock had three points (1G, 2A) in four playoff games and earned a promotion to the Islanders’ top power-play unit in Game 4, where he assisted on a John Tavares goal.
Marek Zidlicky draws in for Pulock in Game 5. The 39-year-old defenseman has 44 career NHL playoff games under his belt.
Capuano will reveal his forwards closer to game time, but Thomas Greiss will start in goal.
While the Islanders lose one of their regular defensemen, the Panthers may be welcoming back one of their regular forwards. Vincent Trochek (foot) took morning skate for the Panthers and head coach Gerard Gallant did not rule out his return on Friday night. Trocheck is the Panthers' second-leading goal scorer (25 goals) and is fifth on the team in points (53). Trocheck has not played since March 29.
Usually, Jack Capuano alternates goalies in a back-to-back situation, but that’s not the case on Friday, as Thomas Greiss will start in goal for a second straight night.
Greiss made 42 saves in his postseason debut, a 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 1, and Capuano had no qualms about starting him again in Game 2. The coach cited the goalie’s conditioning and work ethic as reasons he was comfortable with going back to the 30-year-old German.
“He’s one of the top-conditioned goalies that I’ve been around, the way he works and takes care of himself,” Capuano said. “After talking to Mike Dunham, our goalie coach, and seeing where he’s at and the way that he’s playing - he saw the puck real well last night - we thought that it’d be a good decision to put him back in there tonight.”
Capuano actually likes playing back-to-back games, and says he’d prefer to play every day rather than have long layoffs. He said his team is well-conditioned, so consecutive games shouldn’t faze them and in the regular season it hasn’t, as the Islanders are 9-3-3 in the second half of back-to-backs.
“I’ve always liked it. We’re a better team when we don’t sit around and wait,” Capuano said. “We want to get right back in there. I think our guys are comfortable with that. I think we prepare them for that. I always make sure we’re one of the best conditioned teams in the league. I think there’s believability and confidence that we can play back to back nights, no matter how many minutes guys want to play. Hopefully that will carry into the playoffs for us.”
The Islanders will announce any changes to the lineup closer to game time, but Capuano said not to expect many changes after Thursday’s win.
The Islanders will have their hammer back in the toolbox tonight.
Travis Hamonic, the Islanders’ ice-time leader (23:49 per game) and shutdown defenseman, will be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. It’s a big boost for the Islanders, who thought they had potentially lost Hamonic long-term when he suffered a lower-body injury on March 31 that kept him out for the rest of the regular season.
“It’s huge for us,” John Tavares said. “He obviously plays a major role in all situations and it’s hard to replace a guy like that.”
Hamonic suffered a season-ending knee injury last season and his brand of physicality, roughness and size (6-2, 205 pounds) was greatly missed in what became a war of attrition against the Washington Capitals. The Islanders are glad to have him back as they get set to face a Panthers team with a sizable forward corps.
“Any time you add a player like that it’s a huge boost to your lineup,” Kyle Okposo said on Tuesday. “He’s a great player and we’re a better team when he’s on the ice.”
The Islanders are also welcoming goaltender Jean-Francois Berube back from injury to back up Thomas Greiss on Thursday night. Berube took over the primary backup duties after Jaroslav Halak’s injury on March 8, but was injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 2. Berube’s return sends Christopher Gibson up to the press box.
As for the Islanders’ Game 1 lineup, Alan Quine, Shane Prince and Ryan Pulock are all in and are all making their NHL playoff debuts. Quine, who made his regular-season debut on April 9 against the Buffalo Sabres, did enough to impress the Islanders’ coaching staff in his first two NHL games to not only warrant the call-up, but also the start.
“He’s quick, he accelerates well, he shoots the puck well and he’s going to get an opportunity in Game 1,” coach Jack Capuano said of Quine. “Alan has played really well down the middle. Losing Mikhail Grabovski, not having him back is tough. At the same time, moving Ryan Strome to the wing gives Quine an opportunity up the middle and give us some good minutes.”
Quine practiced between Strome and Prince on Tuesday and Wednesday and it appears Capuano is sticking with the speedy trio on Thursday night.
Pulock will also make his postseason debut, though Capuano did not reveal his defensive pairings.
ISLANDERS PROJECTED LINES:
The New York Islanders returned Scott Mayfield to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Monday morning. The defenseman was recalled on Tuesday April 5 and played three games for the Islanders, scoring his first NHL goal on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Islanders also returned Bracken Kearns, Alan Quine and Ross Johnston to the Sound Tigers, as all three were emergency recalls. Kearns and Quine played on Saturday and Sunday, with Quine scoring his first-career goal in his NHL debut on Saturday. Johnston, who made his NHL debut on Sunday, only played one of the two weekend games.
The Sound Tigers have three games this week, playing Portland on Friday, Albany on Saturday and will finish their regular season on Sunday, April 17 against Providence.
With a playoff spot already assured and a rash of injuries in the Islanders’ lineup, Jack Capuano said the main goal for his team is to get rested and healthy for Game 1 of the playoffs.
“Guys want to get back in, they don’t want to keep sitting out until the playoffs start, but we have to do what’s best for our team,” Capuano said. “That’s what really comes first, is our hockey club.”
The replacements at forward are Alan Quine and Bracken Kearns, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ top two scorers. Kearns leads the Sound Tigers with 22 goals, 30 assists and 52 points, while Quine is second in assists (29) and points (48).
“Quine I’ve seen a lot of,” Capuano said. “He’s got real good speed and puts up a lot of points down there. He deserves an opportunity. Bracken is one of those guys, if you talk to them and us knowing him, he’s played in the NHL before because of his grit and determination and his desire to play hard. He checks really well and they deserve the opportunity.”
On defense, Adam Pelech will be in the lineup on Saturday, his first game since Jan. 14. The Islanders’ defenseman missed nearly three months with a blood clot and recently completed a conditioning stint with the Sound Tigers.
Kyle Okposo is also listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, as he and his wife are expecting the birth of their second child.
Christopher Gibson will start in goal for the Islanders. Gibson is coming off his first NHL win, a 29-save game against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
HAMONIC, HALAK, BERUBE SKATE:
Travis Hamonic, Jaroslav Halak and JF Berube all skated on Saturday morning. Hamonic and Berube both skated with the team during their morning session at Islanders Iceworks, while Halak took shots afterwards.
There is still no timetable for Hamonic and Halak, both of whom suffered regular-season ending injuries, or Berube, who has missed the Islanders last three games with a lower-body injury.
Lee was the latest Islander to suffer a major injury, as the team announced he has a broken left fibula, the result of blocking a Johnny Boychuk slap shot in Thursday’s win over the New York Rangers. The friendly fire occured in the first period of Thursday's game, with Lee attempting to screen Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The Islanders’ forward had 36 points (15G, 21A) in 80 games this season and was the team’s most effective net-front presence. Lee’s hulking frame 6’3, 228 lbs. was routinely parked in front of the net, which was also his role on the Islanders first power-play unit, and his last seven goals were deflections.
Lee is considered to be out indefinitely.
Thomas Greiss is getting his first taste of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry on Thursday night.
Greiss (22-11-4) will start in goal for the Islanders against their crosstown rivals, in a game that could go a long way in determining both teams playoff seeding.
- The Islanders (97 points) can vault themselves into third place in the Metropolitan Division with a regulation win on Thursday, as they would tie the Rangers in points (99) with a game in hand.
- A win combined with a Penguins’ loss keeps alive the Islanders hopes of having home ice in the first round
- A single point on Thursday – or the Islanders final two games after – would assure them of finishing no lower than the first wild-card position, while still giving them a chance to catch the Rangers.
- An Islanders regulation loss prevents the Islanders from catching the Rangers.
A win on Thursday would also give the Islanders their first-ever season sweep of the Rangers.
Jack Capuano didn’t offer a concrete lineup for Thursday’s game, saying he wants to evaluate the health of his players before gametime.
Capuano said there was a “good chance” Calvin de Haan could return to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game in Washington, but said he still needed to consult with Cal Clutterbuck, who also missed Tuesday’s game.
“We have a few guys feeling it at this time of year, so we just want to make sure,” Capuano said.
Even with a playoff berth assured, Capuano said he still expects his team to play hard, but also said getting healthy was a top priority, which could mean resting some players during the last three games of the season.
“We have a lot of guys that are competitive and want to play the game, but at the same time we have to do what’s best for the team,” Capuano said. “We’ve worked really hard to get to this point and that’s something we’ll sit down with management and our coaches and have to look real closely at.”
The coach did praise his team for their resiliency, despite a rash of injuries to key players down the stretch. In March alone, the Islanders lost starting goalie Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Travis Hamonic for the regular season as well as losing Mikhail Grabovski indefinitely. Mix in intermittent injuries to Calvin de Haan, Cal Clutterbuck, JF Berube and Marek Zidlicky and the Islanders have had their fair share of adversity.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Capuano said. “We went through a tough stretch there with the injuries that we have and they found a way to get in the playoffs.”
Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the Rangers.
Dan Girardi is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not play.
Ryan McDonagh is out for the remainder of the regular season with a hand injury.
Kevin Hayes draws into the Rangers lineup taking out Oscar Lindberg.