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Optimism that Jaroslav Halak is close to returning to Islanders

New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak looks on

New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak looks on during training camp on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jack Capuano won't have his No. 1 goaltender nor his No. 5 defenseman back in the lineup Thursday night when the Predators come to Brooklyn, but Jaroslav Halak (upper body) and Thomas Hickey (fractured thumb) are both closer to returning for their season debuts.

"I don't think it's going to be too much longer for either of them," Capuano said after yesterday's practice at IceWorks. "Jaro's feeling a lot better. Certainly better conversation today with him than in the last 3-4 days."

Halak has been out of action since Sept. 21, when he played the first two periods of the Isles' preseason opener at Barclays Center. He wasn't seen again until he practiced with the team on Oct. 6. Halak missing the start of the season hasn't been the main reason the Isles bring a 1-1-1 record, but it certainly isn't a help to have the goaltender who set the franchise record for wins in a season a year ago on the shelf.

After Halak participated in yesterday's practice, he and Capuano had a brief chat while the rest of the Islanders finished drills. Thomas Greiss will likely get his third start of the season Thursday night, but Capuano was clearly perked up by his latest talk with Halak.

"I don't want to put pressure on as far as a timetable," Capuano said, "but he's definitely feeling better."

Hickey, who suffered a fractured left thumb blocking a shot in the Sept. 28 preseason game, skated fully in practice and appeared to be gripping his stick well. His original timetable was four weeks' recovery and he's a little more than halfway through. Wednesday was Hickey's first practice with the team since the injury.

"He just started shooting pucks a couple days ago," Capuano said. "He had a good workout today."

The Islanders get another Western Conference team that has started the season well in the Predators -- already the Isles have faced the Blackhawks twice and the Jets, who came off Monday's 4-2 loss to the Islanders and grabbed a 4-1 win over the Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Nashville has started the season 3-0-0 while allowing just two goals. The Sharks, also 3-0-0, come calling on Saturday before the Islanders finally get to a Metro Division opponent, the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday.

Notes & quotes: Ryan Pulock had an assist in his debut with Bridgeport on Tuesday after being sent down earlier in the day. "He's a young kid, he needs to play," Capuano said.


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