Editorials

New York Islanders Injury Plagued Down The Stretch

By Matt O'Leary
Mar 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Islanders Injuries Down The Stretch Are Cause For Concern

Although the Islanders have won six of their last eight games, there is cause for concern as the playoffs near. The Isles have just one regular season game remaining and they are dealing with a number of unresolved injuries. At this time of year every team is dealing with injuries, but it seems like lately the injury bug has been even worse to the Islanders. Losing Jaroslav Halak and Travis Hamonic was bad enough, but now the Islanders have significant injuries to their forwards, defense and goalies too, effecting all major phases of the game.

Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck both sat out Thursday’s game and are listed as day to day. Clutterbuck went down funny in Monday’s game against the Lightning, although he returned for a short time, he then sat the remainder of Monday’s game and hasn’t played since. As for Martin, he skated on Thursday before the game but for precautionary reasons he was not in the lineup.

Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck are both key pieces to the Islanders fourth line. The Isles have arguably the best fourth line in the entire NHL and with two thirds of the line injured, the bulk of the workload is put on to Casey Cizikas. Their fourth line brings a lot of energy and sometimes at key points during the game Jack Capuano will put out this line in hopes to spark the Isles. Martin is always a league leader in hits and Clutterbuck is usually not too far behind.

Clutterbuck has also had a knack for scoring clutch goals this season for the Islanders in big spots. The Islanders certainly hope to get Clutterbuck back out on the ice as soon as possible. Clutterbuck had an empty net goal in Game 6 last year in the playoffs and just missed a goal in Game 4 as well, hitting the post with his shot. Clutterbuck’s agitating skills shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s always good for getting someone to take a bad penalty, for being frustrated with his chirping. The Islanders can definitely use some Clutterbuck clutchness in the playoffs.

As for Martin, he has a career high in goals this year with 9. He’s not necessarily a guy who you would expect to light up the lamp, but you can certainly use his physical play in a playoff series. The likelihood of him dropping the gloves in a playoff series may be slim, but the Islanders need him to throw his body around. Last year in the playoffs Washington was much more physical and no one really stood up to Tom Wilson or Alex Ovechkin. That’s what the Islanders need from Matt Martin, they need his physical presence felt.

Mikhail Grabovski has also been struggling with injuries this year as well. He’s played just one of the last eighteen games and has struggled in the games he has played this year. Grabovski has just 9 goals on the season, as the third highest paid Islander that is unacceptable. He has underachieved in his two years so far with the Islanders. Despite underachieving the Islanders could use a healthy Mikhail Grabovski in a playoff run.

The big loss is losing Anders Lee to a broken fibula. Lee will be out indefinitely which is something you never want to hear, especially with the playoffs less than a week away. Lee got off to a slow start, but recently found his groove by going to the front of the net for more chances. Anders Lee scored 25 goals last year with this strategy but only has 15 this year. Lee has a physical presence on the ice as well, he was one of the few to stand up to Tom Wilson in the playoffs last year and he’s no stranger to a scrap.

Just when it seemed like Lee was finding his stride he suffers an injury. It’s unfortunate for the Islanders that they lost Anders Lee, especially at this point. Capuano sat Lee twice in the playoffs last year, but before this injury it didn’t seem that Capuano would have the luxury of having Lee as a healthy scratch. He’s too valuable of a piece to this years Islanders team, this one is going to hurt the Isles.

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The Isles also have their fair share of injuries on the blue line. Travis Hamonic are Brian Strait are all Islanders defenseman sidelined with injuries. Hamonic’s knee is most worrisome, the Islanders missed arguably their best defenseman last year in the playoffs and it looks like they could be missing Hamonic again in the playoffs this year. He has skated lightly without gear, but he will still need more time to recover. I would be very surprised if he’s in the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs.

As for Brian Strait, I would rather see Ryan Pulock on the ice anyway. For whatever reason Jack Capuano seems to prefer Strait over the rookie Pulock, the one thing Strait has, besides experience, is a left handed shot compared to Pulock who has a powerful shot from the right side. Pelech hasn’t played since January but it looks like he will be available for tonight’s game. The question is how sharp will he be after missing all that time.

The effect of losing Jaroslav Halak has already been felt by the Islanders. Thomas Greiss assumed the role as starter immediately once Halak went down.  All year previous to the injury, with Greiss playing well, many called for Greiss to be the starter over Halak. Once Halak went down with the injury we saw Thomas Greiss take somewhat of a step back. Greiss is not a starting goalie in the NHL. He’s a quality backup, but when he is forced to play regularly Greiss gets exposed. That’s a major concern for the playoffs as it looks like Halak will not be ready for the start of the playoffs at least.

When Halak went down, J.F. Berube assumed the role of backup for Thomas Greiss. Berube had a couple of good starts, but then after a 5-0 blowout he came down with a lower body injury. This led the Islanders to go with Christopher Gibson as the backup to Thomas Greiss. Gibson just started his first NHL game on Tuesday night. He started Saturday night against Buffalo but that leaves him with just two NHL starts under his belt going into the playoffs as a backup to Greiss.

Next: New York Islanders Level of Effort an Issue Going Forward

Injuries are apart of the game, no team is injury free. Some of these injuries, more than others, are a cause for concern going into the playoffs for the Islanders. I’m not saying that it will necessarily send the Islanders home early with another early exit, I just think it should be something to look into as they gear up for the playoffs.

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