Anders Lee is returning to Long Island this weekend and believes "everything’s in line" for him to be ready for Islanders training camp after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament last season.
But the captain does need final medical clearance before rejoining his teammates on ice once camp opens on Sept. 22.
"Everything has gone well," Lee told Newsday on Friday. "It’s a long process with this type of injury and our focus has continued to be to do this the right way and take it step by step and go after it. I’m excited with how I feel and looking forward to getting with the doctors and having them look at everything again one more time. I’m looking forward to camp to feeling things out and finishing this recovery off the right way."
The 31-year-old Lee, entering the third season of a seven-year, $49 million deal, suffered his season-ending knee injury on March 11 and missed the Islanders’ playoff run as they advanced to the NHL final four for the second straight season before again being eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Lightning.
Lee and top-line center Mathew Barzal will need time in the preseason to develop chemistry with a new right wing after the Seattle Kraken selected Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft.
That, of course, will be coach Barry Trotz’s decision.
Kyle Palmieri, acquired from the Devils on April 7 and re-signed to a four-year, $20 million deal on Sept. 1, will be a candidate to complete the top trio.
"From the short period of time that I got to watch [Palmieri] play this past season, it was evident to me how much he loves getting dirty and getting to the dirty areas," Lee said. "I really like his game, there’s a lot of facets to it from skill to grit. It fits exactly with our identity and who we want to be."
And Lee does see a possible fit for Palmieri on his line.
"Yeah, I do," Lee said. "There’s always guys on our team that we see as a fit. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into all this. There’s a lot there and a lot of opportunity for that to happen. That’s what camp is for."
But Lee’s focus is doing the necessary work to get himself and his knee ready for the 82-game schedule.
The rehabilitation process has made Lee more introspective.
"It’s brought a lot of healthy thought and a lot of good reflection," Lee said. "You go through something that’s difficult and something you don’t see coming. An injury forces you to do a lot of thinking. Whether there were times where it was difficult with things I didn’t want to do or times where everything felt easy. All those things create a different perspective on things and helped me grow in many ways. I’ve learned a lot."