FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Islanders held practice before a team Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Much like a family making space for a son returning home from college for the holiday, the Isles made room for one of their favored sons, on the ice and at the table.
Ryan Strome is back with the team after a three-week demotion to the AHL. The 22-year-old forward was not the only disappointment on the squad during the first month of the NHL season, but he was the only Islander who didn't need waivers to be sent down.
So he went to Bridgeport on Nov. 6 and played his first AHL games since 2013-14, when he lit up that league with 49 points in 37 games and forced his way into a spot with the Islanders.
This time around, he had two goals and two assists in eight games with the Sound Tigers, but major numbers weren't what general manager Garth Snow and the Islanders needed to see.
"For him coming down, work ethic is going to be a key for him," Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson told the Connecticut Post when Strome was sent there. "Shift to shift, work ethic and playing his game. Bottom line, he's an elite player in this league."
Strome played a stronger game in Bridgeport as the time wore on this month. There's also the matter of the Islanders not getting much of anything from their third line since Strome's departure. The Nikolay Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Steve Bernier trio had only two goals in eight games while Strome was in the AHL as the Islanders' other three lines contributed pretty regularly.
So it was not a surprise that Strome skated in Bernier's spot for Thursday's practice at the BB&T Center, where the Islanders will face the Panthers Friday night. Bernier is an effective wing, but Strome has the potential to make the Islanders' third line more of an offensive threat -- as long as he plays the way he needs to.
Strome had a goal and four assists in 12 games before he was sent down. The Islanders were 4-4-0 in Strome's absence.
Notes & quotes: D Thomas Hickey (left leg) also practiced as he inched closer to a return from the injury he suffered in St. Louis on Oct. 24. Jack Capuano said on Wednesday that Hickey could return for Saturday's game in Tampa if all goes well.
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