EAST MEADOW — All indications suggest that Cal Clutterbuck is back in the Islanders’ lineup.
The veteran fourth-liner winger participated in his second practice with the team on Saturday prior to its game against the Washington Capitals, skating alongside Josh Bailey at center and Pierre Engvall at right wing.
Clutterbuck had been on injured reserve since Jan. 19 with an upper-body injury, forcing him to miss 20 games. In 34 appearances this season, he has four goals and four assists. He was officially activated off IR shortly after the team’s morning skate.
“It’s huge. This hasn’t been an easy season for him,” Casey Cizikas, Clutterbuck’s long-time fourth-linemate said. “To see him back on the ice and back in the lineup, it’s definitely big for the morale of the team.”
He’s not returning to the traditional fourth line that has long seen him complete a formidable trio alongside Cizikas and Matt Martin. The two of them remained on the Islanders’ third line with right-winger Hudson Fasching completing the unit.
“Whatever the lines are, that’s out of our control,” Cizikas said. “Our job is to go out there and play and I’m sure at some point you might see us out there together.”
Bailey, normally a winger, shifts to center on the fourth line while Engvall — acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline — plummets from the first line to the bottom group.
The 26-year-old has been benched in each of his last two games — a concerning trend considering Saturday night will be just his fourth outing with his new team. He was sat for the final 15:01 of Tuesday night’s victory over the Buffalo Sabres and then received just two shifts in the second and third periods of Thursday night’s dramatic win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I like his speed with those guys,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said of putting Engvall with Bailey and Clutterbuck. “We’ll see what happens from there.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has missed the last 11 games, participated in practice Saturday morning, but did not participate in line rushes. He remains day-to-day, but Lambert expects Pageau to travel with the team on their upcoming road trip to California, adding that “he’s getting close” to a return.