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Panik Time? Matt Martin Recovery Factoring into Roster Decisions for Islanders

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Matt Martin

Don’t expect to see Matt Martin on the ice when the New York Islanders face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The fan-favorite did skate with the Islanders for a bit on Monday on Long Island, but Martin is still slowly working his way back from offseason surgery on his ankle.

The Islanders and head coach Barry Trotz remained unconcerned about Martin’s status headed toward the start of the season, but with opening night less than 10 days away the possibility he isn’t ready is starting to gain more attention. Trotz said there was a “slight chance” that Martin plays on Thursday against New Jersey and a possibility he plays in the preseason finale.

That would mean that either Richard Panik, who seems to be the favorite to land that 13th forward spot, or Ross Johnston would start the year in Martin’s spot on the fourth line. Panik had been practicing with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin and Johnston received playing time with the pair during the preseason.

The challenge of replacing Matt Martin in the lineup, even if it is only for a short period of time, will play into the roster decisions Trotz and his staff will make. The Islanders have a surplus of forwards competing for space on the roster and in the lineup.

“That will be a little bit of a decision when we see where he’s at,” Trotz said. “If we’re comfortable where he’s at then maybe that opens up some other decisions. If he’s not quite there that may close some decisions as well. We’ll just play it day by day.”

The organization met on Monday to start drawing up plans for going forward. Martin’s current status was surely a topic of conversation.

The challenge the Islanders face in terms of their roster is that so many players would require waivers to be sent down to AHL Bridgeport. The team values all of them and is trying to avoid losing any on the waiver wire.

“Obviously, we’ll be getting close to waivers. We’ll be getting close to those decision times in terms of numbers,” Trotz said. “We want to be able to practice the right way. We want to make sure we have the numbers to do that and also just see where we are in terms of the business of hockey.”

Trotz has always favored keeping a player that can be utilized in different spots in the roster. Panik, who was acquired in the Nick Leddy Trade, fits that billing. His peskiness and ability to play a gritty game make him a shoo-in on the fourth line, but he can comfortably play the top-six of the lineup as well.

Anders Lee Could Make Preseason Debut on Tuesday in Bridgeport

Johnston has been able to play higher up in the lineup and play comfortably on the fourth line as well, but not to the same ease that Panik has taken to it.

The decision of who to keep and who to send down was already going to be a tricky one for the Islanders. The team was going to have to balance the needs of the club as well as try not to lose anyone they valued on waivers. Add having to replace Matt Martin, even for a short period of time, and the decisions get that much tougher.

 

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