CALGARY, Alberta — Speculation on how active Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello will be before Monday’s NHL trade deadline has ranged from extremely to not at all. At the very least, left wing Andrew Ladd and defenseman Thomas Hickey are ready to rejoin the team.
“Right now, they’re still day to day, but not today,” coach Barry Trotz said before the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders faced the Pacific Division-leading Flames on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome to open a three-game Western Canada swing.
Both Ladd, out since Nov. 15 with a suspected foot or ankle injury, and Hickey, out since Dec. 18 with a suspected head injury, remain on long-term injured reserve. But they completed a two-game conditioning assignment with Bridgeport over the weekend before rejoining the Islanders to travel west.
They know they are the trade-deadline acquisitions that cost the Islanders nothing.
“Yeah, I guess,” Hickey said. “I never felt that way but it’s funny how the timing works. It times out to when we’re ready and it’s good for a group that’s playing some great hockey. I think Andrew and myself will be great additions when they’re ready for us. It is good timing because we don’t have to give up anything and it’s not like we’re trying to fit in. We’ve been playing with these guys for years.”
“Personally, it’s been almost three and a half months and I’m just itching to get back and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Ladd added. “If I can come back and give us some energy and a boost and a different element to the lineup, then I’m excited to do that.”
How Trotz fits either back in remains to be seen.
Right now, it would seem Ladd, who has three goals and four assists in 14 games, has a clearer path back into the lineup, especially with rookie Michael Dal Colle re-assigned to Bridgeport.
Lamoriello’s priority heading into the deadline is believed to be a scoring forward who can bolster the power play. Ladd has filled that role in the past and during Tuesday’s practice at Saddledome he took turns with Tom Kuhnhackl working on second-line center Mathew Barzal’s wing along with Josh Bailey.
The left-shooting Hickey, who has four assists in 32 games, was skating on a second pair with Ryan Pulock when he was injured.
In the interim, left-shooting rookie Devon Toews has established himself in the lineup — the Islanders were 18-4-2 with him in the lineup entering Wednesday night’s game — and on the second power-play unit.
“He looks like he’s played all year,” Pulock said.
Left-shooting Adam Pelech, whose inconsistent play led to him being a healthy scratch four times through Jan. 12, has improved his game over the past month while skating with Pulock.
“I think Pelly is finding himself as a National League player on a regular basis,” Trotz said. “There’s firmness in his game. I think he’s getting that from confidence. He’s played very well, no question.”
Hickey understands the lineup challenge Trotz may soon face.
At the same time, he’s confident he can help the Islanders in their quest to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.
“(Toews) has played great,” Hickey said. “Up and down the lineup, everyone has played great. But I know I can come in and play great as well. Those decisions are not up to me. Those are for other people to sort out. Things have a way of sorting themselves out and at this time of the year, the more guys you have, the better.”
Here are the projected lineups
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Jordan Eberle
Tom Kuhnhackl-Mathew Barzal-Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier-Valtteri Filppula-Leo Komarov
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk
Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield
Thomas Greiss (17-8-2, 2.20 goals-against average, .930 save percentage)
Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Matthew Tkachuk
Michael Frolik-Mikael Backlund-Elias Lindholm
Sam Bennett-Mark Jankowski-Austin Czarnik
Andrew Mangiapane-Derek Ryan-Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano-T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin-Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington-Rasmus Andersson
Mike Smith (16-11-2, 3.05, .892)