NEWARK - Ryan Strome wants to earn his way onto the Islanders' opening night roster, so the injury to fellow right wing Cal Clutterbuck is noteworthy for Strome, because it's one NHL regular who's ahead of him on the depth chart.
But Strome, the Isles' 2011 first-round pick, wants to play his way into Jack Capuano's top 12 forwards, regardless of who's in and who's out.
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"They've pretty much told me that if I play my way on, the best players are going to play," Strome said before he played in last night's preseason game against the Devils. "Maybe there is an opening there a bit, but you never know what the coaches are looking for."
What Capuano and his staff are looking for from Strome, who moved from center to wing when he finished his stellar junior career and joined the Sound Tigers last spring, is his natural flair for offense coupled with an awareness of the two-way responsibilities needed in the NHL.
And perhaps the staff is taking a closer look at not only Strome, but fellow prospects Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who have played on the same line since camp opened last week and were together again Thursday night.
That's because Clutterbuck, who suffered a deep skate cut to his right thigh on Tuesday in Calgary, will miss roughly four to six weeks, according to a source. Clutterbuck went to hit the Flames' Paul Byron and Byron's skate cut Clutterbuck's leg as the two fell to the ice.
Strome, who had two goals and five assists with Bridgeport after he turned pro, had his first assist of the preseason Thursday night, along with Nelson, setting up Lee's power- play goal in the opening period.
"I'm definitely 100 percent comfortable there now," Strome said of playing right wing. "I learned some habits I needed to work on, learned how to get the puck a little bit more since you're a bit more restricted than at center. But I like it so far, I'm able to use my creativity."
Notes & quotes: The Isles scored four goals in the opening period against Martin Brodeur and the Devils Thursday night -- Josh Bailey scoring a pair of shorthanded goals -- in a 5-3 win . . . Kevin Poulin played the entire game in goal for the Isles and Anders Nilsson may do the same Saturday at the Barclays Center. "It's still a battle for that position right now," Capuano said of the backup goaltender spot. "The guy we feel is going to help us is going to win that spot."