New York Islanders Barry Trotz revealed that fourth-line winger Cal Clutterbuck is likely to play in Thursday’s Game 5 against the Washington Capitals.
“Everyone’s available,” Trotz said Wednesday. “With Cal… he seems pretty good to go. I don’t see any issue right now. So we should be good to go.”
Clutterbuck was forced to leave Tuesday’s Game 4 late in the second period after taking a low hip check by Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas along the right-wing boards at the blue line of Washington’s zone.
It was a questionable hit, but Trotz wasn’t ready to condemn Gudas for it.
“I’ll look at it again. Anytime that you come low on a guy like that, that’s always a bit of an unwritten rule,” he said following Game 4. “But Cal could’ve gotten rid of the puck sooner, that’s for sure.”
Clutterbuck is one-third of the Islanders’ identity line — a hard-nosed fourth-line group that also features Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin.
Deemed one of the best fourth lines in the sport, they encompass everything the Islanders are about under Trotz: Hard-nosed, gritty play capable of providing sizable momentum swings.
While the trio has played together for a majority of the past seven seasons, injuries to Clutterbuck and Cizikas earlier this season kept the fourth line from performing at full strength.
“We want to be out on the ice together. We’ve played a lot of hockey together over the last seven years,” Martin said. “You just try to keep a level head about it and hopefully [Clutterbuck is] alright. We’ll get back out there. At the end of the day, it’s just about winning hockey games, trying to keep the frustration levels as low as possible. There’s going to be ups and downs through the course of the playoffs and the course of a series.”
With an opportunity to eliminate the Capitals on Thursday night in Game 5, that identity line has to be clicking on all cylinders to cancel out Washington’s desperation play that was so effective on Tuesday night.
“They’ve been pretty decent for us,” Trotz said. “They’re an identity line that can have more impact, no question.”