Islanders stalwarts Cal Clutterbuck and, very likely, defenseman Scott Mayfield are done for the season.
The team announced before Thursday night’s game against the Red Wings at UBS Arena that Clutterbuck requires shoulder surgery and Mayfield (lower body) is expected to miss four to six weeks. The regular season concludes on April 29, and with the Islanders expected to be eliminated from playoff contention before then, bringing back Mayfield even if he becomes available doesn’t seem to make sense.
“They’re very important,” coach Barry Trotz said. “This is the NHL, guys are going to go down. It’s got to be the next-man-up mentality, which is opportunities for other guys. But they’re both big pieces in our room. Both big pieces, especially on the penalty kill and late-game situations. Other guys are going to have to develop their game to be better in some of those areas and take on those minutes.”
Mayfield was injured blocking a shot late in the third period of Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Senators after scoring the winning goal earlier in the period. Mayfield had been one of two players — along with Zach Parise — to have played in every game this season.
“I don’t even think he knew until after the game,” center Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “When you block a shot, it can go either way. I think he felt good and X-rays showed something different. It’s tough on the mind of the player. It’s tough on teammates. You never want to see a guy go down. We’re going to hope it’s a quick recovery.”
Clutterbuck, whose two-year, $3.5 million extension was announced on Monday, had played in every game before sitting out Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Philadelphia.
Trotz said he expects Clutterbuck to be ready for September’s training camp, though his offseason routine may be altered as he recovers from surgery.
“It might be set back a little bit,” Trotz said. “You could have setbacks. But, if everything goes as planned, he should be here for training camp and ready to go.”
For now, Trotz said he does not expect any call-ups from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
“The primary thing for us is we’re going forward and trying to win as many hockey games with the group to find out, truly, what we are,” Trotz said.
Against the Red Wings, Kieffer Bellows moved into Clutterbuck’s spot on fourth-line center Casey Cizikas’ right wing and left-shooting Sebastian Aho drew back into the lineup with Mayfield’s usual partner, Andy Greene, who moved to his off-side on the right.
“You’re going to try people,” Trotz said. “You’re forced to experiment. But it’s not really experiments. We’ll use guys like Nellie [Brock Nelson], Beau [Anthony Beauvillier] and [Josh] Bailey, they’re maybe the third set [of penalty-killers]. They’ll have to take a bigger chunk of that.”
Trotz added that defenseman Noah Dobson, who quarterbacks the first power-play unit, also might see ice time as a penalty-killer.
“Which is good experience for him to continue to grow his game as a young guy,” Trotz said.
The Islanders’ disappointing season has had its share of long-term injury absences in addition to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov missed training camp and the preseason with a lingering lower-body injury that kept him out of the first nine games. Top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock missed 25 games from Nov. 16-Jan. 30 with a lower-body injury. Right wing Kyle Palmieri was out for 10 games from Dec. 19-Jan. 25 with a lower-body injury. Top-line center Mathew Barzal and defenseman Zdeno Chara each missed six games with lower- and upper-body injuries, respectively, from Feb. 27-March 10.