Wednesday was an off day for the Islanders, but you wouldn’t have known that if you happened by Northwell Health Ice Center. Five injured Islanders were on the ice, giving the first real ray of hope that the impact of the injury wave is beginning to abate.
Josh Bailey skated for a fourth straight day and, should all go smoothly on Thursday morning, it appears likely that Bailey will return to the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Bruins in Brooklyn. Bailey is still among the top 15 scorers in the NHL at 50 points despite missing the last four-plus games. He was injured in the first period against the Penguins on Jan. 5 and did not return. He would be a welcome sight on John Tavares’ right side.
The four other Islanders were all taking their first steps back. Andrew Ladd, also injured in that Jan. 5 loss, was on the ice for the first time since that night. Johnny Boychuk, who will miss his 10th straight game on Thursday, had previously tried to practice and get back into action from his lower-body injury but was shut down after one day on the ice two weeks ago. Wednesday was his first on-ice workout since that failed return.
Casey Cizikas, who was termed by Doug Weight to be “out a while” with a suspected hand injury suffered in Saturday’s 7-2 win over the Rangers, was a surprise participant in the injured skate on Wednesday. Cizikas, who missed 23 games last season following finger surgery, is not one to handle idleness well. He may still be out a while, but the hand injury will allow him to keep his skating legs.
And Nikolay Kulemin was the last of the injured five, another welcome sight back on the ice. Kulemin suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery back on Nov. 7. It was thought at the time that his season and, since the 31-year-old wing is in the final year of his contract, his Islanders tenure was over.
But he was back on the ice Wednesday a little more than two months removed from surgery. His return isn’t imminent but Kulemin was certainly a stabilizing force on the penalty kill, which has been one of the league’s worst for much of the season.