The New York Islanders could use some help, and it appears they will get some with the likely return of Matt Martin on Tuesday and the possible return of Semyon Varlamov on Thursday.
Both players have been sidelined as they’ve recovered from separate injuries to start the year. Martin had offseason ankle surgery and Varlamov has been dealing with “soreness” since the start of training camp.
The absence of Martin had been noticeable on the Islanders’ fourth line, which had struggled to find the same effectiveness as it has had in the past. Martin had been dealing with the ankle injury since last season, but says the surgery helped and he’s in a good spot.
“It wasn’t a long process,” Martin said. “Back in March when we played back-to-back games I blocked a couple of shots in the same spot. I was dealing with that throughout the playoff run and tried to get it to settle down after the season. It didn’t and I went to see the specialist and went the surgery route.
“It’s maybe even a little earlier than the initial time frame of it. I feel good.”
It became clear that Martin was nearing a return for Tuesday on Monday afternoon when the Islanders placed Leo Komarov on waivers. The move clears a roster spot for Martin to come off the IR. Komarov filled in for Martin on the fourth line on Saturday in Florida.
Ross Johnston had served as the fill-in during last Thursday’s season opener.
“Well, I just think Marty provides that emotional element to that line, to our team,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s a smart player. He understands the moments and he brings an emotional element to our group for sure and obviously a physical element.”
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The Islanders could use all of that after the slow 0-2-0 start they’ve gotten themselves off to at the start of the 2021-22 season. New York has struggled defensively allowing 11 goals through the first two games and making crucial defensive blunders that have cost them.
The return of Matt Martin may help curb some of that and reignite what has been missing from the Islanders’ “Identity Line.”
Semyon Varlamov could help settle the team down defensively as well. Ilya Sorokin has admittedly struggled as the Islanders’ No. 1 goaltender while Varlamov recovered.
It hasn’t all been on Sorokin, but there were several saves that the young netminder should have stopped in his first two starts. Varlamov won’t be ready to play on Tuesday in Chicago, however, Trotz indicated it could be as soon as Thursday for a potential return.
“Once anybody joins practice, he’s day-to-day,” Trotz said. “We’ll see if we get a couple more ice sessions and we’ll see where he’s at. We’re just going through the protocol we do with every player. Ramp it up, get them healthy. Ramp it up all the time and once we feel that he’s ready, more importantly, once he feels he’s ready, then we’ll put him in the net.”