A stark contrast after Islanders practice at IceWorks Monday: Teenager Nino Niederreiter was all smiles after a full skate brought him a step closer to his first game of the season. Meanwhile, Trevor Gillies had nothing to be happy about after learning he was placed on waivers for the second time this season.
The Islanders did not say when the 19-year-old Niederreiter will make his regular-season debut after being on injured reserve because of a groin injury suffered Sept. 30, but the player selected fifth overall in the 2010 draft appears nearly ready. He had a goal and an assist in nine games last season.
"It's obviously good to have him out there,'' Jack Capuano said of the 6-2, 205-pound Swiss winger. "Obviously, the conditioning of skating with Bernie is not the same as the pace of practice or the pace of a game, so we'll kind of see where we are going forward with him . . . Nino's a big-body guy who's going to create space and he gets to the net and shoots the puck pretty well, so if you do those things, you got a chance to score some goals.''
Before his injury in a preseason game against the Devils, Niederreiter was teamed with the first line of John Tavares and Matt Moulson. That is not likely to happen immediately when he returns. "I haven't really decided where he's at,'' Capuano said. "We'll see how well the next couple of days go and see what kind of condition he is in.''
Niederreiter thought he'd be back by now. "Personally, I didn't expect to be [out] that long,'' he said. "At the end I just took it day by day. It obviously took a while, but at the end, I'd rather wait and hope it never comes back. It was definitely frustrating, but I had to take positives. I know the season is long. I'm definitely very excited and feel I'm almost ready to play. I'm super-excited to play.''
Gillies, who turns 33 in January, initially was put on waivers before the first game of the season; he has appeared in three games. If he goes unclaimed, the enforcer could be sent to AHL affiliate Bridgeport or kept with the Islanders. Gillies refused comment as he walked to his car after practice.
Notes & quotes:G Evgeni Nabokov (lower body injury) "is getting better,'' Capuano said, listing him as day-to-day. Tavares and Andrew MacDonald did not skate. "I just wanted to give [Tavares] a day off,'' Capuano said. "He's played quite a few minutes. A-Mac, the same thing. An extra day will help them a little bit.''