Talk to anyone around the New York Islanders organization and they’ll maintain the notion that you won’t be seeing injured captain Anders Lee suiting up for the team at any time this postseason.
So don’t count on seeing the second coming of a Willis Reed moment where the hobbled star comes limping out of the locker room in a big playoff moment to electrify the crowd — again, that’s their outlook.
Lee was the Islanders’ leading scorer this season when he went down with a season-ending ACL injury on March 11 against the New Jersey Devils — the man who has taken the tasks and responsibilities of wearing the ‘C’ on the chest with the utmost valor relegated to the press box to watch his team.
His loss prompted GM Lou Lamoriello to pull one of the trades of the season, acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac — two sizable playoff contributors — to help keep the team afloat to not only make the playoffs but to make it to their second consecutive Stanley Cup semifinal appearance against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As the playoffs approached and began, the question of Lee’s ability to return this postseason would occasionally come up and every time, they were shot down by head coach Barry Trotz.
But Lee has appeared on the ice during morning skates throughout the Islanders’ playoff run, most recently on Monday morning ahead of Game 5 at Amalie Arena down in Tampa Bay. The night before, the Islanders social-media team shared a video celebrating the team’s dramatic Game 4 victory to tie the series, and there was Lee appearing in the opening seconds in his suit jacket in the middle of the locker room reading out the lineup card. The fired-up captain then proceeded to smack the wall as he left the room to further goad his side as much as he could without actually putting on the uniform.
“It’s good therapy for him and good motivation for him,” Trotz said. “I also think with the relationship he has with that whole group, it was really important for him to do the lineup calls just so you know he’s around.”
He was then shown after the game commending his teammates; all smiles.
“He gets it,” Trotz continued. “He gets the part about how important it is to be someone to lean on even if he’s someone who isn’t in the lineup right now and he’s enjoying it as much as they are.”