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Michael Grabner could make debut this week -- if he can crack lineup

Islanders' Michael Grabner celebrates his game-winning goal against

Islanders' Michael Grabner celebrates his game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets during overtime of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Credit: AP / Trevor Hagan

There have been plenty of Michael Grabner sightings during practice the past few weeks, but the speedy winger has been on the sideline during the Islanders' incredible start to this season.

That might change this week. Jack Capuano said Grabner, who had hernia surgery Oct. 8, could make his season debut at the end of this week, either in Ottawa on Thursday or at home against the Blues on Saturday.

But that's no sure thing. Grabner scored 82 goals in his four previous seasons with the Islanders, but pulling someone out to make room for him might not be the wisest course of action for Capuano.

"The guys are playing well and Grabs certainly understands that," Capuano said. "He wants to get in there, obviously. But any move we make will be for the good of the team."

As far as the forwards go, the best move might be none at all. A few haven't produced of late -- Josh Bailey has no points in his last five games and linemates Frans Nielsen and Mikhail Grabovski have no points in six straight -- but all four lines were rolling and meshing well during the team's 11-3-0 romp through November.

Grabner adds a critical dimension of speed, especially on the penalty kill. The Islanders generally have been better while a man short during the past month, killing off 31 of 38 power plays (81.6 percent), but they still rank 29th overall on the penalty kill at 74.6 percent.

The Islanders' fourth line struggled in early November, and that could have provided a way for Capuano to ease Grabner into five-on-five work in a game. But Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck have been effective in their last seven games, chipping in two goals each during a 6-1 run.

So the lineup of forwards will remain the same Tuesday night against the Senators at the Coliseum. "We analyze this stuff daily," Capuano said. "We really haven't made a decision yet."

Tough luck for Grabner, but there's no reason to make any moves right now.

Notes & quotes: Lubomir Visnovsky and Johnny Boychuk, who both missed Saturday's 3-1 win over the Devils with upper-body injuries, sat out Monday's practice and likely are out for Tuesday night. Travis Hamonic also missed practice, a "maintenance day," according to Capuano. He'll likely play Tuesday night.

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