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Islanders must make room with Cal Clutterbuck close to returning

Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck skates during training

Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck skates during training camp at IceWorks in Syosset. (Sept. 13, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Islanders played well enough over the first two games for coach Jack Capuano to be comfortable with the same 18 skaters and goaltender for Tuesday night's visit from the Coyotes.

But the 2013-14 Islanders are a deeper squad than seasons past, so there are still roster decisions to be made.

Cal Clutterbuck, who's on injured reserve, practiced fully on Monday without a non-contact jersey. He may not yet be ready to return Tuesday from the deep leg cut he suffered on Sept. 17. However, he's not far from coming back, which means a forward would have to come out of the lineup -- and an active player will have to come off the 23-man roster to make room for him.

That could mean the end of Griffin Reinhart's stay with the Isles. The 19-year-old defenseman earned a look out of training camp and the clock has yet to start on the nine-game window the Isles have before they burn a year of Reinhart's contract, but practicing, sitting and watching has its limits. Reinhart may be destined to return to Edmonton of the Western League. "We don't really have a timetable for Griffin," Capuano said. "As long as he's here, learning the pace of how we practice and what we do, we think it's beneficial for him."

Clutterbuck skated in practice yesterday with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas; their usual right wing, Colin McDonald, worked in a rotation with the Brock Nelson-Peter Regin-Pierre-Marc Bouchard line. "Guys want to get in the lineup and I understand that," Capuano said after practice, one in which he had a few moments of anger at his players during a drill.

Clutterbuck and Nelson stayed on the ice well after their teammates for some extra drills. Nelson was among the best Islanders forwards over the first two games, but he is also the only rookie among the forwards, which makes him more vulnerable to being a healthy scratch; Capuano also noted that Bouchard, the veteran free-agent signee, has had a bit of trouble fitting in. "I've talked to Pierre and he's not the biggest guy out there," Capuano said. "We need him to be a little harder on pucks."

Nelson could be a candidate to go down to Bridgeport if the Isles decide they want eight defensemen instead of 14 forwards (Eric Boulton and Matt Carkner are the veteran extras on wing and defense), but his play so far would indicate he's too valuable to send down just yet.

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