As the NHL trade market churned out a few small deals Monday, the Islanders welcomed back three regulars to practice who could be the only additions the team makes before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
Cal Clutterbuck, Shane Prince and Travis Hamonic practiced fully as the Islanders went through a vigorous 75-minute practice, complete with hard-edged drills and 15 minutes of skating sprints. Doug Weight went a bit old- school on his team in its first time back on the ice since Saturday’s 7-0 drubbing in Columbus.
“We didn’t show them anything [on video], but we had a good talk this morning. Regardless, we were going to have a good work day, but they dug in with the extra motivation,” Weight said. “You don’t usually get more than 25, 30 [minutes of practice] in this league. It’s a luxury for us. We did some real important systems work, got some skating in and it was a great attitude out there. I’m looking forward, not backward.”
That means to the deadline as well. Weight still has the assistant general manager title, and he and GM Garth Snow have had numerous talks about whether to alter the lineup and chemistry of a team that — despite a few blowout losses on the road — has the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference (23-12-6) since the 20-game mark.
Two sources told Newsday that Snow is not shopping for players who are pending free agents, given that the market for an impact forward is pricey. The Wild surrendered first- and second-round picks, as well as a conditional pick that could end up being another first, for Coyotes center Martin Hanzal on Sunday.
The Islanders would prefer to find players whom they can keep beyond this season, such as Avalanche center Matt Duchene or Oilers wing Jordan Eberle. But those deals would require Snow to hand over prospects and a player or two off the roster, and Weight believes the pending return of his three injured players — as well as Casey Cizikas, who might be able to return earlier than the three weeks remaining on his month prognosis for a suspected broken hand — could add just as much as a player brought in via trade.
“I really like, when you sit down and look at everyone healthy in two, three weeks, hopefully we’re a pretty darn good team,” Weight said. “And we’ve battled teams without those guys. So I’m comfortable. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to do anything. The prices are pretty high right now around the league.
“I believe we can go into Thursday with a good team, a playoff team. I believe that. We have to go and prove it, but that’s what I believe.”
Clutterbuck has missed 15 of the last 20 games with a lower-body injury. Prince (upper body) has missed seven straight. Hamonic has not played since Jan. 7 because of a knee injury.
Notes & quotes: Andrew Ladd and Alan Quine missed practice. Ladd’s back tightened up, according to Weight; he missed four games in January with a back problem. Weight said Ladd is “probable” for Thursday night’s game in Dallas. Quine has an upper-body injury and could miss some time this week.