Ross Johnston appeared in the Islanders lone exhibition game before the start of the postseason, but never played in their 3-1 series victory over the Florida Panthers. That could change once the Islanders First Round series with the Washington Capitals begins on Wednesday.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz told reporters on Monday that Johnston was “in the mix” for the team’s 2015 playoff rematch with the Capitals.
“You’re constructing your roster for your opponent,” Trotz said. “Ross has made such great strides as a player the last two years really. He’s in the mix, for sure.”
Trotz has often praised Johnston and compared the 26-year-old to Tom Wilson after the Islanders defeated the New York Rangers in an exhibition game in July. Johnston had skated on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard during training camp and in the warmup game.
If Johnston does crack the lineup it will likely be on that same line. Trotz has not been shy about making changes there either.
Tom Kuhnhackl played the first three games against Florida on Pageau and Brassard’s wing before Trotz had Leo Komarov enter the lineup there for Game 4.
Johnston brings an added physical presence for the Islanders, with some speed as well. The forward had four points (three goals, one assist) in 32 games during the regular season this year.
The Islanders could see another lineup change as well with Johnny Boychuk “highly probable for Game 1 on Wednesday.
The defenseman has been out since Game 1 of the Qualifying Round series with Florida after taking a high hit from Mike Matheson.
Boychuk practiced on Sunday and Trotz had told reporters on Saturday that the Islanders blueliner had indicated he was feeling much better. The Islanders finished Game 1 with five defensemen.
Andy Green replaced Boychuk for the rest of the series. The return of Boychuk makes Trotz’s lineup decisions that much tougher.
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