The Islanders’ losses started even before their 4-1 loss to the Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday pushed their season to the brink.
Casey Cizikas and Tom Kuhnhackl left the Edmonton bubble because of undisclosed injuries and will not return. The Islanders said any further updates will not be made until after their postseason run ends.
"You have to have that next-man mentality," right wing Josh Bailey said. "Those guys are a big part of our team. I think every team goes through different injuries. It’s not something you can dwell on or that we even need to talk too much about."
Losing Cizikas, the identity-setting fourth-line center, obviously is an enormous blow for the Islanders. He had two assists in 18 postseason games but is a key penalty-killer, and his line with Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck typically establishes the team’s forecheck.
Cizikas also missed the Isles’ 5-3 win in Friday night’s Game 3.
Kuhnhackl was in the lineup for the first three games of the Islanders’ best-of-five qualifying series against the Panthers but has not played since.
"They both mean a lot to our team," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "We need guys to step up in our locker room and I have faith we’ll do that."
Game 3 Friday night ended with 60 minutes in penalties in the final 36 seconds, including a fight between Martin and Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow.
The animosity continued Sunday during warm-ups, with Martin and teammate Ross Johnston, inserted into the lineup for Michael Dal Colle, jawing with the Lightning’s Alex Killorn and Zach Bogosian.