The Islanders lost two more players, including goaltender Al Montoya, to concussions on Tuesday night, bringing their total of regulars out of the lineup because of concussions to four as the NHL's wave of head injuries continues.
Montoya and left wing David Ullstrom left the Isles' 3-2 shootout win over the Jets in Winnipeg after taking blows to the head. Montoya was run over by Winnipeg's Evander Kane with 1:20 left in the second period as Kane led with his stick, cross-checking Montoya in the mask. Montoya stayed down for two minutes before being helped off to the dressing room, giving way to Evgeni Nabokov in goal.
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Ullstrom left in the final minute of overtime after throwing a hit on Jets captain Andrew Ladd. Ullstrom caught Ladd's elbow in the face and fell awkwardly into the boards.
Both players were well enough to fly home with the team on Tuesday night, but in today's world of heightened awareness about concussions and their symptoms, well enough to fly home doesn't mean well enough to play. Both are out indefinitely, joining Brian Rolston and Steve Staios on the sideline because of concussions.
The Islanders called up goaltender Anders Nilsson and wing Micheal Haley on an emergency basis and shifted Rolston to injured reserve. The team faces the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Thursday, the Leafs at home Friday and then back to the Garden on Monday, all during the holiday roster freeze, meaning Nilsson and Haley are on the roster until Tuesday.
And meaning that Nabokov, who stopped all 19 shots he faced in the third period and OT and both shootout attempts in winning for the first time since Oct. 15 -- it was his first game since he suffered a groin injury on Nov. 17 -- will be in goal tonight to face the Rangers.
"It's always good when the guys play a very disciplined game," Nabokov said. "I was just trying to simplify things, turn the pucks to the boards."
The Islanders did clamp down in that third period, keeping the Jets to the outside in the defensive zone. It's a style the Islanders have been slow to adopt, but now with a few key players out indefinitely, perhaps they will warm to a more system-oriented, slow-down game when it can work, as it did in Minnesota and then Winnipeg.
"If we have to win 2-1, 1-0 games," Jack Capuano said, "that's what we have to do. The guys have started to realize that."