As beloved as the New York Islanders fourth line has been the past few years, the team has played better with Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Martin broken up. Ross Johnston is a better option than Matt Martin and deserves to stay in the lineup.
The Islanders had the best fourth line in hockey for years. They clicked well, had an unbelievable forecheck, and always got the team going. It seems age has caught up to the trio, and the new fourth line of Parise, Johnston, and Clutterbuck has fared much better for the Islanders.
New York Islanders: Ross Johnston should stay in the lineup
Matt Martin is a huge part of the Islanders team identity. The only issue is he does not have the skill anymore to crack an NHL lineup. Clutterbuck is still useful in his forecheck and has an unbelievable wrist shot. He also made a back-checking play last night to save a great 2-on-1 opportunity. Casey Cizikas is by far the most skilled on the line and deserves to be pushed up to line three when he returns.
Ross Johnston brings the exact same game as Matt Martin, but the 6'5 forward is only 27. He's quicker, better along the boards and has more ability to make plays. He also throws the body around. I know it was part of Lou's plan to potentially fit Johnston in the role in the future, but the team needs permanent changes now in order to make a playoff run.
Last night the Islanders beat Ottawa 5-3, and even though Ottawa is one of the worst teams in the league it was an important game for the Islanders. The team looked much more in sync with the lines they had, and just seemed to be faster and quicker at moving the puck. Let's hope Barry Trotz actually recognizes this and doesn't mess up the mix until it is needed. One can only hope Salo replaces Chara at some point this season.