With Islanders' injuries mounting, Ross Johnston has chance to get back into lineup
Ross Johnston expects to learn Thursday morning before the Islanders conclude a three-game homestand against the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena whether he’ll be in the lineup for the first time in a month.
Coach Lane Lambert has no other options currently on the roster if he needs a forward to replace Oliver Wahlstrom. Simon Holmstrom, Aatu Raty and Hudson Faching were all recalled previously from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and inserted as injury fill-ins with the 6-5, 230-pound Johnston remaining a healthy scratch.
“Yeah, it was,” Johnston told Newsday when asked whether this stretch of inactivity was particularly tough for him. “You never want to be out of the lineup, especially for that amount of time. You try to look at the bigger picture. That being said, if I’m in tomorrow it’s an opportunity to prove yourself again.”
Wahlstrom exited Tuesday’s 5-1 win over the Penguins after his first shift with what certainly appeared to be a head injury and the right wing did not practice on Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
The Islanders were already missing right wings Kyle Palmieri (upper body), Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) and Holmstrom (left leg) against the Penguins, in addition to defenseman Adam Pelech (suspected head injury).
Fasching had an assist on Tuesday and was elevated to Wahlstrom’s spot on top-line center Mathew Barzal’s right wing at Wednesday’s practice. Raty has centered the fourth-line the past two games.
The Islanders (20-14-2) have won two straight.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look at the bigger picture and how the team is playing and what certain guys bring to the lineup,” said Johnston, who has one assist in five games this season and last played in a 3-1 loss in Philadelphia on Nov. 29. “Those guys have all come in and done an excellent job so it’s pretty tough for me to sit out here and be envious when they’re having success.”
Johnston does provide a physical deterrent when he’s in the lineup and Pelech, Palmieri and Wahlstrom all appeared to get hurt after taking hits to the head.
“You provide a physical presence and maybe some of those hits do or don’t happen,” Johnston said. “But a lot of those head plays have been fast plays where guys are playing hard and they’re kind of caught in vulnerable positions. You can go out afterwards and try to take control of the game but that doesn’t change the hit that’s already happened.”
Notes & quotes: Palmieri, Clutterbuck and goalie Semyon Varlamov (lower body) all skated on their own on Wednesday. Pelech, Holmstrom and Wahlstrom remained off the ice…Cory Schneider was the first goalie off the ice at Wednesday’s practice, typically indicating a starting assignment. Schneider has been Ilya Sorokin’s backup for four games since being recalled from Bridgeport. Lambert was non-committal about his goalie choice for Thursday. “It’s too early to answer the question about Schneider,” Lambert said. “Varly’s on the ice skating, so I think he’s getting closer.”