The Islanders limped home from Buffalo on Tuesday night, their playoff hopes having taken a huge hit with two regulation losses in a 30-hour span to the Senators and Sabres.
They're still not out of it, though, and reinforcements are on the way.
Evgeni Nabokov (flu) and Travis Hamonic (broken nose) skated again Wednesday, while the rest of the team had the day off after the back-to-back losses. Both the goaltender and defenseman, two of the keys to the Islanders even being on the fringes of the playoff chase, appear likely to return for tomorrow's home game with the Rangers, as defenseman Ty Wishart was returned to Bridgeport and Kevin Poulin, who made 35 saves in the 2-1 loss to the Sabres on Tuesday, may follow suit after today's practice.
Jack Capuano, also felled by the flu and forced to miss Tuesday's loss, seems on target to return behind the bench after Doug Weight ran the team in the interim.
There may even be more change coming. Tim Wallace, who had an assist in his first game up from Bridgeport on Dec. 6 and no points in the subsequent 30 games he played, was placed on waivers after being a healthy scratch the last four games.
That leaves the Islanders with only 12 forwards and a group that's scored 14 goals in the last nine games, so general manager Garth Snow may bring up some new blood from Bridgeport -- either wing David Ullstrom, who played effectively in his month-long call-up in the first half of the season and leads the Sound Tigers with 19 goals in 31 games; or Casey Cizikas, the first-year pro who leads Bridgeport with 44 points and a plus-25 rating.
No matter who is in the lineup Friday, the Islanders can't withstand another poor start. They were doomed Monday and Tuesday by goals in the opening 90 seconds, and their lack of offense could not make up for the early deficits.
"It's not something we can afford to keep doing," Andrew MacDonald said. He has been a minus-6 in the nine games Hamonic, his defense partner, has missed. "We have to be stronger and more confident off the opening faceoff."