The New York Islanders will get a familiar face back in the lineup tonight. The team announced on Twitter that they will have Matt Martin returning for his first game of the season on the road in Chicago.
Martin said that he hurt his ankle originally blocking shots in March. He’d play the remainder of the season and into the playoffs with his injury before having surgery in the offseason.
The Islanders couldn’t get Martin back at a better time. The fourth line of Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck has been one of the league’s best fourth lines for some time and they’ve proven that they don’t function the same without all three parts.
Through the first two games of the year, the Islanders tried two different guys in the Matt Martin role and it didn’t go very well. Ross Johnston got the first crack and in 4:16 of ice time as a line, they had a 28.57 CF%, a 40.0 SF%, and an 18.61 xGF% according to Natural Stat Trick.
The version with Leo Komarov in for Ross Johnston wasn’t much better. The line in 8:37 together had a 31.25 CF%, a 33.33 SF%, and a 46.57 xGF%. For context, the version with Martin last year had a 45.51 CF%, a 49.03 SF%, and a 51.13 xF%.
Martin might not fight like he once did but he still plays an integral part of the identity line for the Islanders. He had 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) during the regular season and he’s had some clutch performances in the playoffs the last two years. In his last 43 playoff games, he has six goals. For someone like Martin who has a career-high of 10 in a regular season, that’s pretty impressive.
Expect the forward group to look more like itself tonight with the return of Matt. He might not have the best stats in the world but it’s obvious that the team responds better when he’s in the lineup.