Fourteen Islanders stepped out on the ice at Friday’s optional practice, none of whom were named Cal Clutterbuck.
The valuable fourth-line right wing departed in the second period of the Islanders’ 2-1 shootout win over the Devils on Thursday night. The specific problem wasn’t revealed, but Clutterbuck flexed his left knee moments after bumping legs with Nico Hischier.
The injury isn’t serious, according to coach Barry Trotz. “I wouldn’t even say he’s day-to-day,” he said at Northwell Health Ice Center. “He’s today. We’re not playing; he’s not in.”
Clutterbuck was feeling a little better, according to Trotz, who will see how he’s feeling Saturday. The Islanders have a weekend back-to-back against Colorado and Minnesota at Barclays Center.
Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl are the candidates to replace Clutterbuck if need be. He has only six goals and eight assists but has done his fair share, along with linemates Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, to lift the Metropolitan Division leaders. Clutterbuck also contributes on both special teams.
“He’s a good all-around player,” Martin said. “Obviously, it’s good that it’s not a serious injury. I don’t know whether he can play or not [Saturday], but it’s not a long-term thing. He’ll be back sooner [rather] than later, which is a big positive for us.”
The hard-working fourth line, reunited when Martin was reacquired in July after two seasons with Toronto, has been a big positive. Trotz has started the trio since New Year’s Eve.
“Obviously, I have a lot of respect because I do start them every game,” he said. “I have trust in them. As a coach, that’s all you want from a line is that they can be predictable and you can trust them.
“Obviously, Marty’s the biggest body and he’s probably the most physical body because when he does hit you, he can put a hurt on you. Obviously, Casey’s the guy who does a little bit of everything, but he’s got a lot of speed on that line. And Cal’s in between. He’s that middle weight, agitating, has a good skill level and shoots the puck pretty good.
“When you put all those pieces together, they’re a good line . . . They’re responsible on both sides of the puck and they’ve been pretty productive.”
They’ve been pretty appreciative about starting.
“We enjoy it, for sure,” Martin said. “Generally, teams start their top lines, and then we’re going out there against them. Barry and his staff trusts us to go out there and shut them down and try to get games off to the right start.”
Notes & quotes: Thomas Hickey (upper body) last played Dec. 17, but the defenseman has practiced fully this week. “He’s getting real close,” Trotz said.