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Perhaps it's time for Islanders to trade for a veteran forward

Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders lays

Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders lays on the ice late in the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

No one is suggesting it is time for the Islanders to panic. They have reached first place largely because they have remained so calm and patient with their young players. Then again, given their declining numbers and falling forwards, would it kill them to at least think about something dramatic?

You can't throw the whole team, or even any one guy, under the bus after a loss in the last of a brutal five-games-in-seven-days stretch. To their credit, their feeling was summed up by Cal Clutterbuck, who said, "That's not a crutch for us."

But the truth is, given the uncertainty over Frans Nielsen's health after a 4-0 loss to the Canucks at the Coliseum Sunday night, there is no guarantee the Islanders will have 12 healthy forwards to face the Coyotes Tuesday night.

Considering that there is no timetable for Kyle Okposo's return, that Mikhail Grabovski still is officially out indefinitely and that Casey Cizikas was traversing the corridor Sunday night in a protective boot, it might be time for the Islanders to think the unthinkable: about trading a prospect such as Griffin Reinhart or Ryan Pulock, both young defensemen.

Yes, we know that would violate the Islanders' master plan and go against the flow that has helped fuel their rise. By the same token, this has developed into such a special, sentimental season, it would be a shame to let it slip away.

First, the team has to see what kind of shape it really is in. Nielsen went down hard after a collision away from the play in the second period and barely made it to the bench before returning for the third period. "We've still got to see how he is, though," Jack Capuano said.

As for the big picture, the coach said: "I'm concerned a little bit, there's no question. We're going to evaluate what we have, obviously. [Ryan] Strome is an option down the middle again."

Where might wingers come from? The Islanders promoted Kael Mouillierat, their top scorer in Bridgeport, before Saturday's game, and he had a rough time of it Sunday night. He was called for penalties twice, and each time the Canucks scored on the power play.

"They were definitely penalties. I didn't try to trip the guy the first time, he just kind of skated over my stick. The second one, I was obviously too aggressive in the corner and went down," Mouillierat said. "Being a fourth-line guy, you can't let that happen. You can't spend your shifts in the box."

Again to their credit, the Islanders rallied behind a 27-year-old rookie who had worked his head off to make his way from the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and reach the NHL.

"Everyone was really supportive. You know, 'Keep your head up and get them the next time,' " Mouillierat said.

Said Clutterbuck, "He's playing hard for us, he's doing well. By no means is it his problem, his fault."

Capuano felt awful for the rookie. "It's going to happen,'' he said. "A lot of guys have been in that situation before. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the job done and there was a part of me inside that wanted to get the penalty kill done, especially for him. But there's no blame on him."

Still, no one could blame the Islanders if they looked for a veteran who could help, especially one who has some experience on the power play.

This observer still thinks Garth Snow was right to swing for the fences and trade for Ryan Smyth in 2007. This season is even more promising than that one was. Why not at least consider giving up a little bit of tomorrow for a better today? A little panic never hurt anybody.

New York Sports