|Can Strome step up?|
Cal Clutterbuck limped off the ice after delivering a hard hit in the offensive zone during last night's game in Calgary, and today, head coach Jack Capuano told Arthur Staple that Clutterbuck suffered a skate laceration to his leg and will miss "extended time."
Clutterbuck was acquired by the Isles on draft day last June, dealing disgruntled prospect Nino Niederreiter to Minnesota in exchange for the hard-hitting winger. Cal was expected to join Matt Martin to create the hardest-hitting duo in the NHL, but that will have to wait.
While it is uncertain as to whether or not Clutterbuck will miss the season's opener on October 4th, it goes without saying that this is not ideal for an Isles team that needs the toughness; however, the injury creates an opportunity for other players in training camp if, in fact, Clutterbuck isn't ready to go.
Let's be honest. The Isles don't have a replacement for Clutterbuck. Whoever grabs Clutterbuck's spot for the time being won't bring the combined physical presence and scoring touch that Cluts can provide on a nightly basis. The Islanders will have to find a way around it, and fortunately, Garth Snow has done a good job giving the team plenty "break glass in case of emergency" options if needed.
Perhaps the injury opens the door for Ryan Strome, the Islanders top-offensive prospect, to get his first bit of experience at the NHL-level. While third-line minutes may not be ideal, matching Strome's offensive abilities with former 30-goal scorer Michael Grabner's speed may give the Islanders a viable weapon when both players touch the ice.
Brock Nelson also has the opportunity to earn a spot, adding something that many of the team's forwards to not have: size. Nelson, the Sound Tigers leading scorer in 2012-13, played in his first NHL game during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last May, adding a few hits and taking his frame to the dirty areas.
Both Strome and Nelson provide the Islanders with power play flexibility, something that Clutterbuck was also expected to give Capuano when making line-up decisions.
No matter which way the Islanders go, the void Clutterbuck leaves all-but-guarantees at least one rookie in the Islanders line-up. Door's open, fellas. Take the bull by the horns.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!