The Islanders will get Mikhail Grabovski back for crucial Game 5 as series vs. Caps is tied at 2.
WASHINGTON – It’s now a best of three series between the Islanders and Capitals and the Isles are shaking things up.
Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) was activated off of injured reserve on Thursday morning and will return to the lineup for the first time in two months. Grabovski, who was among the most attractive offseason acquisitions by general manager Garth Snow, finished with nine goals and 10 assists in 51 regular season games. He last played on Feb. 19, when a big hit by Nashville’s Eric Nystrom sidelined Grabovski with his second concussion of the year.
“I’m pretty excited to play. This is what I do with my life,” Grabovski said Thursday morning. “They’ve been rough games (in the series). Big hits from both teams. Tight games… my first hit? I’ll try to (make) a hit first.”
Based on the morning skate, it appeared as though Grabovski will replace Brock Nelson in the lineup. Nelson scored two goals in the opening game of the series, but has since struggled to be a factor. Grabovski is the type of a puck possession-type player that the Isles need in what’s been a tight, 2-2, series.
“He’s a guy with experience, a guy that’s played in some big games before,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We went through a stretch where we didn’t have him, but it shows the depth of our hockey team…he’s battled hard for us. He’s going to get that opportunity and to me, he deserves that opportunity. He’s one of the guys in the offseason that we targeted, we signed and he’s going to get the chance.”
Meanwhile, Tom Wilson’s hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 has sidelined the veteran defenseman along with the already injured Travis Hamonic (apparent knee injury). The Isles will skate seven defenseman during warmups, but it appears as though Reinhart, not Ryan Pulock, will get the nod in Game 5.
“Ever since I came up, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity (to play in the playoffs),” Reinhart said. “It’s unfortunate that it had to happen like this, but whether I get to play tonight or another time in this series, I’m really excited and I think I’m ready for it.”
Reinhart, 21, played in his first eight NHL games this season and tallied one assist on the blue line. Pulock, who has yet to make his NHL debut, scored 17 goals for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Though Pulock would ideally jumpstart the Isles power play, which was 0-for-10 entering Game 5, Reinhart seems like the safer choice given his size and limited experience.
“The biggest thing is definitely the pace. It’s not something you can learn just by hearing about, it’s something that you have to participate in and get used to the flow,” Reinhart said. “It’s another step up here in the playoffs, so it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to taking…I thought I handled myself pretty well in those eight games, so that gives me a little bit more confidence.”
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