Ahead of tonight’s game against the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders placed Ross Johnston on IR. Ross picked up an injury after getting into a fight with Philadelphia Flyers tough-guy Samuel Morin. Johnston served his five-minute major for fighting and did not return to the game nor did he play in the Isles last game.
With Johnston on IR, Twitter all a-flutter, and rightfully so, does this mean that Oliver Wahlstrom will come back in the lineup for the game tonight?
The move could signal that, but it could also be much-ado-about-nothing. Let me explain.
Why Oliver Wahlstrom might not be in the lineup tonight for the New York Islanders
On the surface, it makes sense that Wahlstrom would come in with Johnston now on IR. Since picking up Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, head coach Barry Trotz has kept Wahlstrom out of the lineup for “roster flexibility”.
Once the roster expands at the trade deadline, the Islanders could bring Wahlstrom back into the squad without issue. So with Johnston off the roster now you’d think the spot would go to Wahlstrom.
Again, that’s certainly possible. And seemingly likely with what Trotz has said over the last few days. But if the Islanders wanted to make a spot for Wahlstrom on the team they could have done so easily already.
Leo Komarov cleared waivers on March 24. That means he doesn’t have to clear waivers again until he plays ten games or a month passes. Leo has yet to hit either of those markers. If Trotz absolutely wanted to bring in Wahlstrom he could have move Komarov off the roster and to the taxi squad instead. He didn’t.
Why? To me, it comes down to two reasons. (1) It’s clear he thinks Leo isn’t doing a half-bad job up on the top line. Which is true to a certain degree. And, (2) it’s also clear that Barry wants to give his two new acquisitions time to adjust – and practice – before putting them in their actual spots in the lineup.
With three games in four nights since the trade with the Devils, the Islanders haven’t had much time to practice. After tonight’s game, they have a three-day break before playing in back-to-back nights in Boston. A break that will give the team that important practice time.
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All of that to say, Leo could still be in the lineup tonight and Wahlstrom could sit out until Thursday’s game in Boston when the size of the roster is no longer an issue anymore.
We’ll see what Barry Trotz does for tonight’s game closer to puck drop. But if Leo Komarov is still in the lineup, don’t be surprised.