Practice at the United Center in Chicago on Monday afternoon provided a familiar feel for the New York Islanders, as Matt Martin skated with his fourth-linemates in Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
The 32-year-old left-winger has missed the Islanders’ first two games of the season — both losses — as he finishes up his recovery from ankle surgery that he underwent in the offseason.
Martin revealed that he suffered the injury blocking shots that hit the same area in back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. He managed to play through it as the Islanders reached their second straight Stanley Cup semifinal in June.
“It wasn’t a long process,” Martin said on Monday. “I was dealing with that through the playoff run… I went to see a specialist and went the surgery route. I feel good and if I’m in the lineup tomorrow, that’s great.”
All signs point to Martin playing in Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks, which provide a considerable boost to a fourth line that had been slow coming out of the gates. Clutterbuck and Cizikas were placed with Ross Johnston for the season opener in Carolina against the Hurricanes before Leo Komarov took over for Game No. 2 in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers.
Komarov was put on waivers Monday, meaning Martin should take that roster spot as he returns from injured reserve. Komarov, meanwhile, will likely report to the team’s minor-league affiliate in Bridgeport.
The restoration of the Islanders’ identity line should only help improve a team that has started off on the wrong foot in 2021-22. Barry Trotz’s men have yielded 11 goals in the first two games of the season, second-worst in the Eastern Conference.
“We’d love to be 2-0 right now and playing our best hockey,” Martin said. “For some reason, we haven’t gotten off to the best start, but we’re a veteran team… we’re a mature group. We know what’s expected of us and we need to go out there and execute. When we’re playing our best hockey, we’re rolling four lines and everyone is contributing inside of their role.”