Thomas Vanek could be back by end of week
The Islanders' list of injured players is still too long for their liking, but there was a bit of good news from the infirmary on a rare day off Monday.
Thomas Vanek, who left Saturday's game in Columbus in the opening 30 seconds with an upper-body injury and sat out Sunday's loss in Montreal, does not appear to be headed for injured reserve, according to a source. It's unlikely that Vanek will be ready to play against the Predators at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, but if he can get back on the ice within a day or two, he could be back by the end of this week.
The Islanders have been grappling with longer-term injuries to defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body). Both have been out for three weeks, with Visnovsky missing the last 10 games and Strait the last nine.
Both were at the Coliseum for examinations Monday -- one small good sign for Visnovsky, who still has not been cleared for any off-ice activities but was well enough to get to the rink for an informal checkup.
Strait might resume skating soon but still would be a ways away even after he takes his first strides back on the ice.
Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) has missed three straight games and didn't skate during the last half of the road trip, but he should be back on the ice Tuesday morning.
Travis Hamonic, who left the end of Sunday's loss to the Canadiens after being shoved into the boards by Max Pacioretty, reported no ill effects and will play Tuesday night.
With or without any number of those regulars, the Islanders return home in need of points. The 0-4 road trip, during which they were outscored 16-6 and allowed eight power-play goals, was not an unmitigated disaster, but it was close.
"There's highs and lows during the season and obviously, this is a pretty bad low, but we have to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing,'' Andrew MacDonald said Sunday night. "The mental lapses, we really have to bear down. No one's going to get us out of this hole but us.''
The Predators also are in a rut, having lost 5-0 in each of their last two games. They're still trying to muddle along with goaltender Pekka Rinne (hip infection) sidelined indefinitely.