Andrew Ladd likely is still at least a month away from being able to rejoin the Islanders’ lineup. But the left wing has been cleared for contact, the next step in his recovery from knee surgery.
The Islanders’ practice on Sunday in East Meadow marked Ladd’s first in a regular practice jersey instead of an orange non-contact one since he resumed skating with his teammates earlier this month.
“There’s still some limitations to what he can do, but not many,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s advancing to the next stage. It’s probably a relief for him. You start to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ladd’s truncated third season with the Islanders — on a seven-year, $38.5 million deal — ended on March 24 when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He also missed 44 games last season with an injured right knee and was sidelined for all of the preseason and the first three games with a back issue.
Ladd, 33, played only 26 games last season with three goals and eight assists. The Islanders finished second in the Metropolitan Division and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, mostly without him.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in late September that the expectation is for Ladd to be ready “sometime in the latter part of November.”
Trotz said he is looking forward to Ladd being able to play, if for no other reason than to put pressure on players currently in the lineup.
“It’s going to provide some more back-side pressure,” he said. “It’s sort of the law of the jungle. The strongest will survive, the ones that are playing the best, the ones that are most consistent. Those guys will survive and some guys will have to go to Bridgeport or there will be waivers.
“We’ll see how healthy we are,” Trotz added. “Maybe we don’t have that situation. The NHL has a weird way of getting you nicked up. We need as many bodies as we can.”
Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey and either Matt Martin or Ross Johnston have been the Islanders’ left wings, though Bailey could switch back to the right side.
“I just think once you get to the point where you’ve been practicing really well, I’ve got to give him the opportunity,” Trotz said. “I don’t think there’s any promises one way or another.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders, who have won four straight after concluding a two-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, will face the Coyotes on Thursday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum . . . Forward Leo Komarov (illness), who missed Saturday night’s game, did not practice . . . Forward Tom Kuhnhackl was given a maintenance day off . . . Forwards Casey Cizikas and Jordan Eberle skated on their own. They remain on injured reserve with lower-body injuries and Trotz said both are “probably doubtful” to return by Thursday . . . The Islanders will be off on Monday.