The players not on the ice on Wednesday told more of the story at Islanders’ training camp than those who skated at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
Gritty right wing Cal Clutterbuck, coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, missed his third straight practice. Defenseman Scott Mayfield and Oliver Wahlstrom, still trying to secure his spot among the top 12 forwards, missed their second practice in a row. Clutterbuck’s linemate, center Casey Cizikas, exited midway through practice for maintenance.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” coach Lane Lambert said when asked whether he expected those players to be available for the Islanders’ regular-season opener on Oct. 13 against the Panthers at UBS Arena. “There shouldn’t be too much concern right now.”
The Islanders face the Devils on Thursday night at UBS Arena in their fifth of sixth preseason games. The game roster will start to resemble the opening night lineup with Wednesday’s deletions.
Goalie Jakub Skarek and Ruslan Iskhakov were also re-assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport along with Raty, Holmstrom and Dufour. Defenseman Isaiah George, a fourth-round pick this summer who never skated during training camp because of an unspecified issue, was returned to his junior team, London of the Ontario Hockey League.
The Islanders also placed goalie Cory Schneider, defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Parker Wotherspoon and forwards Andy Andreoff, Cole Bardreau, Arnaud Durandeau and Hudson Fasching on waivers. They will also be re-assigned to Bridgeport if they clear on Thursday.
In addition to Wahlstrom being challenged by Kieffer Bellows, Nikita Soshnikov, Otto Koivula and Ross Johnston for playing time up front, the battle for roster spots among defensemen became clearer. Provided Mayfield is available to start the season and projecting Robin Salo to be his partner on the third pair, Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton, Paul LaDue and Samuel Bolduc remain in camp vying for likely one spot as an extra defenseman.
Among the regulars, Clutterbuck’s continued absence is probably the most concerning after a shoulder injury ended his season in March.
Clutterbuck said at the start of training camp he felt ready to go after his offseason recovery.
“There’s always a question,” Clutterbuck said on Sept. 22. “You don’t know how the body is going to respond. You try and do everything you can to be prepared and try to trust that process is going to get you ready to go.”
Lambert said on Wednesday he was “not concerned” about any long-term issues with Clutterbuck and Matt Martin echoed that about both his linemates, including Cizikas.
“Camp is hard and there’s a lot of guys that get a little nicked up throughout camp,” Martin said. “I think the organization exercises caution and maybe some things that guys would play through in the regular season probably isn’t necessary to do in the preseason. I’m not worried about either of those guys. They’ll both be fine.”