As injuries mounted for the New York Islanders throughout December, it was time and time again reassuring when a player, whether it be rookie Simon Holmstrom or journeyman Hudson Fasching were inserted in the lineup and adapted seamlessly to the team's offensive and defensive style. Even other changes, such as Casey Cizikas moving to the wing, have had good, better-than-anticipated results in a small sample size.
The expectation was that the call-ups from Bridgeport, the shakeups in lines were temporary as the team waited for forwards Kyle Plamieri, who has missed 16 of 17 games overall and Cal Clutterbuck who has missed six straight, to return to the lineup.
But what's happened will prolong the stay and opportunities for players like Fasching and Aatu Räty, as while the team waits for players to heal up, new injuries to Oliver Wahlstrom and Holmstrom will keep the forward group from being whole any time soon. That means the tinkering and experimenting during the last three games by head coach Lane Lambert will continue one way or the other as the Islanders start their four-game road trip on Sunday night in Seattle.
Both Palmieri and Clutterbuck will travel with the team and have been skating in recent days, a promising sign that they are close to a return. But where they will fit in a revamped lineup is still to be determined. Fasching has played well with Zach Parise and JG Pageau, the usual linemates for Palmieri. If Lambert decides to move Fasching away from that line, the good news is that the 27-year-old has already shown his ability to play anywhere in the lineup.
"Something I've been doing a lot in Bridgeport is being the utility guy there. I've gone up and down the lineup, in and out of both special teams, so that's part of my game. I feel like I've tried to play a balanced game on both ends of the ice and show you my ability to play on both lines."- Hudson Fasching
Meanwhile, if Clutterbuck is ready to return, it won't necessarily mean he'll be reunited with Matt Martin and Cizikas on the Identity Line. The Islanders may choose to keep Raty with the team, at least for a few more games. A player on an entry-level contract can skate in nine games before teams must decide whether to send him to the American Hockey League or junior hockey and delay the start of their contract to the following season.
If that happens, you'd expect him to be centering a line with Clutterbuck and Martin while Cizikas continues to play on the wing. There's a lot of possibilities and options for Lambert, but the once thought upon as short term options at least have shown promise that they can be long term ones too.