Islanders coach Jack Capuano hedged his bets expertly when it came to the status of Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, who both missed the final three games of the regular season with undisclosed injuries. We just have to wait and see, he said.
Martin, at least, has waited. He's seen. He's ready.
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"I felt great in practice today,'' the 6-3, 215-pound fourth-liner said Monday morning at Nassau Coliseum. "It's hard to keep any player out of the lineup this time of year because it's an exciting time and you definitely want to be playing.
"I've been skating for four days and I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm right back in the rhythm.''
Nielsen and Martin also skated Saturday but didn't play that night against the Blue Jackets. They could be pivotal factors in Wednesday night's Game 1 of the playoffs against the Capitals, particularly because the Islanders might have to play without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who suffered a lower-body injury Friday against the Penguins.
Nielsen, a two-way player, is tied for second with Kyle Okposo behind John Tavares in power-play productivity -- four goals, 14 assists among 43 total points. Matt Martin is Matt Martin: He held on to his crown as the NHL hits king with 382.
Although Nielsen tends toward the understated, he also said he thinks he can be ready if things continue to progress Tuesday.
Nielsen said he still needs to find his rhythm, "but it's only been three games, so hopefully I can get back at it right away. I feel pretty good out there, so I guess I'm going to test it out tomorrow, do some more battle drills and make sure it's all good. This week has been good for me.''
If Nielsen can play Wednesday, the three games off might prove to be a blessing (of the "in disguise'' variety). He, like Martin, has played 78 games this season, and a breather could be just the thing to prepare him for a deep playoff run.
"It would've been nice to play the whole time,'' Nielsen said, "but I got a little break, recharged the batteries, which doesn't hurt, either.''
Capuano, though, said nothing is certain. "We don't want to put a guy in jeopardy,'' he said when asked about the duo. "We have some healthy bodies.''
Of course, there's another side to that equation. At this point in the season, almost everyone is a little banged up, Martin said.
"You just try to play through them,'' he said. "This is what you play all year for.''