Nick Leddy practiced again Thursday and seems likely to return to the lineup Saturday for the Islanders' game against the Devils in Newark. And not a moment too soon.
Leddy's skating ability and anchoring of the Isles' transition game has been sorely missed the past four games. The other common thread through those four games? Four losses in which the NHL's second-most-prolific offense produced one goal each time.
"I don't think it's a coincidence," Jack Capuano said of the team's only four-game losing streak this season coming during the only four games Leddy has missed this season. "You take 11 [Lubomir Visnovsky, out the last two] or 2 [Leddy] out of the lineup, those are guys who see the ice a different way. They have that elusiveness in their games."
Leddy was injured in the second period of the Islanders' 4-3 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs on March 8, their most recent win. He called it a "freak thing." That would apply to any injury that kept the 23-year-old sidelined. He had a 320-game ironman streak end when he sat out a 2-1 loss to the Rangers 10 days ago.
"You just have to prepare the best you can, try to get back out there, get a feel for the game again," said Leddy, who practiced with the Islanders on Wednesday for the first time since the upper-body injury. "It should all come back."
Thursday brought some more improvement on the injury front. Jaroslav Halak, who didn't make the trip to Chicago earlier this week because of a lower-body injury, practiced and Capuano pronounced his goaltender "all good to go." Kevin Poulin was returned to Bridgeport, so Halak will at the least be ready to dress for Saturday's game in New Jersey.
Visnovsky (unspecified) and Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) skated on their own before the Islanders' practice and Capuano said both could return next week, when the Isles have four home games in six days against teams in the playoff picture.
That would make for a crowded roster, but Capuano would welcome the tough decisions if it meant he would have more Islanders to choose from to help put his team on the right path with 10 games to go.
"It's not like we're playing poorly here," he said. "We just need to score more than one goal."