The Islanders altered their lineup three days in advance of Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Injuries forced these changes rather than any deals to address the team’s scoring struggles.
Veteran left wing Andrew Ladd and rookie center Otto Koivula were recalled from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and are in the lineup for Friday night’s game against the NHL-worst Red Wings at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders, starting the day out of a playoff position for the first time since October, will retire four-time Stanley Cup champion John Tonelli’s No. 27 before the game.
Rookie wing Kieffer Bellows was returned to Bridgeport and center Derick Brassard was listed as day to day. He was hit in the head by a puck in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Colorado that concluded an 0-4-0 Western road trip during which the Islanders scored only two goals. Brassard went through concussion protocol and did not return to that game.
“I’ve always had success going around the net and putting pucks in the net,” said Ladd, who has spent all but one game this season with Bridgeport after being limited to 26 games last season as he suffered separate major injuries to each knee. “I’ll just try to do more of the same. We’ve got a lot of talented guys up front. If I can create space for them, get open to get my shot off, that’s just part of my game.”
“He’s scored a lot of goals in this league,” coach Barry Trotz said of Ladd, who had 248 goals and 289 assists in 947 games entering Friday and won the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and the Blackhawks in 2010. “We’re looking at that experience factor jumping in.”
Ladd, 34, has 11 goals and three assists in 34 games for the Sound Tigers. But an upper-body injury has kept him sidelined since Feb. 1, though he has been skating this month.
He was called up to play in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets at the Coliseum on Dec. 23 Ladd logged 9:53 without a point — and was promptly returned to Bridgeport.
That cameo’s brevity did surprise him.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Ladd said. “But that’s out of my control. I thought I came in at that time and played well. I tried to be physical. I tried to bring a little energy and that’s a decision they made. I went back down and I was trying to do the same things, make plays and get that game back.”
Ladd started Friday’s game on the third line, with Josh Bailey filling in for Brassard in the middle.
Koivula centered a fourth line with Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl.
Bailey is the latest to try and fill in for Casey Cizikas, who suffered a left leg laceration in the Islanders’ last win, a 5-3 victory over the visiting Flyers on Feb. 11. Cole Bardreau was recalled from Bridgeport but played just one game — a 5-0 loss at Nashville on Feb. 13 — before being sent back to the AHL. Leo Komarov, much more comfortable on the wing, centered the fourth line the previous three games.
“Trotz has been saying all year it’s a next-man-up mentality,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “We’ve seen 'Ladder' for years in this league. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s a big presence in our dressing room. Everyone is happy to have him back. Otto is a smart player. He makes those little plays and understands the game really well.”
Koivula, 21, had yet to record his first career point in seven games over two playing stints with the Islanders this season entering Friday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Leo Komarov
Andrew Ladd-Josh Bailey-Michael Dal Colle
Matt Martin-Otto Koivula-Tom Kuhnhackl
Andy Greene-Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk
Semyon Varlamov (17-12-4, 2.55 goals-against average, .918 save percentage)
Red Wings (15-43-4)
Robby Fabbri-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Mantha
Tyler Bertuzzi-Valtteri Filppula-Andreas Athanasiou
Darren Helm-Frans Nielsen-Luke Glendening
Adam Erne-Christoffer Ehn-Brendan Perlini
Patrik Nemeth-Alex Biega
Madison Bowey-Mike Green
Trevor Daley-Gustav Lindstrom
Jonathan Bernier (13-17-2, 2.89, .908)