With defenseman Andy Sutton eager to return from a two-week injury sabbatical and Bridgeport call-up Jesse Joensuu motivated by another shot to play forward in the NHL, Islanders coach Scott Gordon hopes to generate a bigger, badder presence than what has been on display recently.
While Boston has been building steam with an 8-1-1 record in its last 10 games, moving into first place in the Northeast Division, the Islanders are 3-7 in the same span and are last in the Atlantic Division. Not only are they missing forwards Sean Bergenheim (ribs) and Tim Jackman (hip), but "one of the things we've lost is the element of physical play,'' Gordon said.
"That's been accumulating over this stretch. We're not forechecking like we were a month ago. It's been deteriorating.''
So Sutton and Joensuu - both aggressive as well as large sorts - could be the tickets to forcing the action. Certainly, both are keen to try.
Sentenced to two weeks of rehab after straining a groin muscle on Nov. 27, the 6-6 Sutton noticed that without him, the team was "a little shorter."
Sutton was becoming restless while watching the games on television. "Honestly, my blood pressure is through the roof," he said. "I can't sit still. Nobody can talk to me. It's a real helpless feeling. I feel most sorry for my wife."
Just as restless an existence has been Joensuu's assignment in Bridgeport. "It's a cliche," said the 6-4 Joensuu, whose skill set includes hulking around the net and in the corners. "Everybody wants to play in the NHL and I want to play here badly.''