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Islanders regroup with reinforcements on the way

From left, Thomas Vanek, Casey Cizikas, Michael Grabner

From left, Thomas Vanek, Casey Cizikas, Michael Grabner and Colin McDonald laugh on the bench during an outdoor practice at Grant Park in Hewlett on Feb 24, 2014. Credit: James Escher

Post-Olympic permutations are about to envelop the Islanders. With prime mover John Tavares lost to a season-ending knee injury and second-line center Frans Nielsen out indefinitely with a broken hand, "you'll see some new bodies" as soon as Tuesday's practice, coach Jack Capuano said.

Forwards Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Mike Halmo, the top three scorers for the Islanders' Bridgeport affiliate, were recalled Monday night. Those three formed the top line for Bridgeport. Meanwhile, rookie Brock Nelson centered for Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek on the Islanders' top line during yesterday's workout.

"What we have right now," Capuano said, "is still the same system of how we play. We had a tough enough time scoring goals before the break. Brock's been here, though. He's playing well. So he deserves an opportunity with one of the top lines, for sure."

In 50 games, Nelson has 10 goals, which puts him third on the team among healthy players, behind only Okposo's 24 and Vanek's 15. (Tavares has 24 and Nielsen 18.)

"It's tough to see Johnny go down," Nelson said of Tavares, injured in Canada's Olympic quarterfinal last Wednesday. "But my job stays the same, just be a two-way center for us. No matter who they put in on the line, wherever I end up, just do the job and be prepared."

At 22-30-8 and with 22 games to play, the Islanders' immediate chore is to avoid spiraling into disarray. Bridgeport reinforcements are inevitable -- "We've got to have 20 to play," Capuano said -- and the only reason they didn't appear Monday was because Bridgeport just finished a stretch of three games in three nights.

Bridgeport's next game isn't until Friday, "but even if they played, we'd have to take 'em," Capuano said. "We wanted them to stay down for those three in three to play those games, but now it doesn't matter what their schedule is. Now you'll see them here shortly."

Getting some fresh air

The Islanders held a rare outdoor practice session Monday at Hewlett's Grant Park, experiencing "a little chill in the air, a little wind in the air," Capuano said, and what goalie Evgeni Nabokov noticed was a "huge glare" off the ice to fight because of bright sunshine.

The session was intended to show support for a local rink and to break up the team's routine. Besides Tavares and Nielsen, forward Matt Martin (lower body injury) did not skate. The Islanders resume NHL play Thursday against Toronto at Nassau Coliseum.


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