Ryan Strome's Bridgeport exile soon could be coming to an end.
The Islanders' recent offensive woes and Strome's progress in the AHL may mean the forward, who was sent down on Nov. 6 after going five straight games without registering a point, likely will be evaluated for a return, coach Jack Capuano said after the morning skate on Wednesday.
"He's getting better," Capuano said. "That will be Garth [Snow]'s decision, but obviously you can't lose sight of a right shot ... that's put up the numbers that he put up last year. That's something that we're lacking right now, so we'll see how it goes here over the next game or two for us."
Strome had 17 goals and 33 assists over 81 games last year, his first full season in the NHL - he also had a plus-minus of 23, the highest on the team. But Strome struggled mightily at the start of the season, despite playing as John Tavares' right wing on the first line. He had one goal and four assists over his first eight games and was a healthy scratch against the Blues on Oct. 24.
When Strome was loaned to the Sound Tigers, Capuano said he was struggling with his confidence - something that apparently carried over to Bridgeport, where he had a slow start. That seems to be clearing away now. He had assists in back-to-back games on Nov. 11 and 14, and scored a goal to send a game against the Rochester Americans to overtime on Nov. 20.
"His practice habits have been good," said Capuano, who's been watching his game tape. "He's playing better and better every game."
Colin McDonald faced his old team in his debut with the Flyers' and brought a bit of nostalgia with him. "I'm always going to miss the Coliseum," said McDonald, who played parts of three seasons with the Islanders. "I don't think there's anything like it -- definitely in hockey, maybe in sports."
McDonald, who was scoreless in 7:59 of the Islanders' 3-1 victory, began the season with the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and was named the first captain in that team's history. "It's never anything personal, but you're always out to prove something," he said about facing his old club. "It's funny how sports kind of works these things out."
Capuano said that Thomas Hickey (leg) is making significant progress and could be back by the upcoming road trip. "He looked really good," Capuano said, adding that Hickey will travel with the team. "He's real close . . . so [it's] a little bit of conditioning and making sure the injury he had is healed 100 percent." Capuano said he wasn't sure that the defenseman would be ready for the Panthers on Friday, but he hopes he'd be back for the Lightning on Saturday.