Islanders’ Ruslan Iskhakov could slot in for Game 3 vs. Hurricanes after 1 NHL game

Ruslan Iskhakov Islanders
New York Islanders’ Ruslan Iskhakov, left, talks with Sebastian Aho during a break during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Ruslan Iskhakov probably was not supposed to pay so much attention to how the New York Islanders were doing, but he could not help it.

Less than two weeks ago, the 23-year-old winger was finishing up his second season with the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, hoping that something could break his way. 

“You kind of have your hopes at the end, but probably not. Never say never, but I’m glad it worked. I want to say that I was concentrating on whatever was going on in Bridgeport but when you have an opportunity, you keep an eye on the main team.”

Things broke his way during the final week of the regular season. The Islanders clinched their playoff spot with one game to go, allowing head coach Patrick Roy to sit wingers Mathew Barzal, Pierre Engvall, and Anders Lee. 

He recorded 14:11 of ice time with an assist in the regular-season-ending victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to which Roy quipped after the game that he had fun watching him play… I was very happy with what I had seen… He has great energy, he competes. He’s small but I don’t know if he knows he’s small with the way he’s been playing. That’s nice to watch. I have time for him.”

Roy might be making some more time for him ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday night at UBS Arena where the Islanders look to claw out of an 0-2 first-round series hole against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fourth-line winger Matt Martin is day-to-day with what Roy described as “maintenance,” on Wednesday. Iskhakov skated in his place on that line alongside Kyle MacLean and Cal Clutterbuck. 

“That’s a pretty big step,” Iskhakov said about potentially breaking into the Islanders’ lineup. “I’m ready whenever. I’m not sure what the decision will be, but I’m just ready for the chance.”

Martin is a game-time decision and would not commit to Iskakov taking his spot should the veteran be unable to go, but his skating in that spot certainly is an indication that Roy is at least thinking about it.

“That’s a possibility, of course,” Roy said. “We’ll make a decision tomorrow afternoon and see.”

Iskhakov provides a more offensive presence which would provide an extra thrust to an Islanders team that has been overwhelmed by the uber-aggressive Hurricanes’ offense that out-attempted New York by a whopping margin of 110-28 in their comeback victory in Game 2.

He has recorded 35 goals and 66 assists (104 points) in 178 games minor-league games. He was an AHL All-Star this season, recording 18 goals and 32 assists.

For more on the Islanders and Ruslan Iskhakov, visit AMNY.com