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At the Skate: Monday, January 31

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
After having four days off to rest, Tuesday's 2 p.m. practice at Iceworks was pretty skating intensive. While doing some one-on-one drills, Andrew MacDonald and Michael Grabner went head-to-head. Grabner, of course, used his speed to his advantage, but MacDonald did a great job on the backcheck and even cracked a smile as he limited Grabner's scoring opportunity.

Post-practice, I caught up with Grabner and talked about All Star Weekend:

Eight Defensemen

Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina has missed the last six games with an upper body injury, so it was nice to see him out on the ice skating with the team. He's going to make the road trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, but he's still day-to-day and isn't guaranteed to play on Tuesday night.

"It's good to be back finally, especially after the break," Jurcina said.

The hockey veteran also said that having a break like this one is good for the team.

"It's good to be able to recharge the battery and not have to think about hockey for a few days. So that's a good thing and now we are just back in the room, we're sharp on the ice and we're ready for the next 33 games."

Following the Islanders last game before the break, management sent Kevin Poulin and Dylan Reese down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers but both players were recalled again on Monday morning and participated in the practice before boarding the plane to Atlanta.

Another new addition, defenseman Ty Wishart, was recalled from the Sound Tigers. In 43 AHL games, the 22-year-old has recorded 4 goals and 19 assists (five with the Sound Tigers) for 23 points. The defenseman, who stands at 6'4" and 224 pounds, will make his first road trip with the Islanders this season, but with eight healthy blueliners, he's not guaranteed to see any ice time. If it comes, Wishart will surely welcome the opportunity:

“It’s always exciting to get an opportunity,” Wishart said. “After the trade, I’ve been really looking forward to getting a shot up here. Hopefully I’ll do well. I know a few guys coming in here, so it makes the transition pretty easy.”

Moulson’s Deal
With the news of his three-year contract extension, a big weight has been lifted off of Matt Moulson's shoulders. He no longer has to listen to trade rumors or hope that he can work out a deal to stay on Long Island. As a result, he skated with confidence and bared the smile that fans have come to love. His linemates are happy for him:

“I’m pretty happy for him,” PA Parenteau said. “It’s a big deal. I’m glad I was part of his success this year. I love playing with this guy; he’s so good around the net. I love playing with Johnny (Tavares) too. He’s kind of the same type of player. I just try to make the plays to get them some goals.”

John Tavares added, “It’s nice to see him get rewarded for all his years of hard work. He deserves it. It’s great to see him want to stay and be a part of this going forward. He loves it here. I think for him, he’ll tell you that he’s happy it’s over with. He’ll be happy that the questions are done as well. He wants to just play hockey and help this team. That’s what is most important to him.”

Lines from the day's practice:

26 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 15 PA Parenteau
40 Michael Grabner - 51 Frans Nielsen - 21 Kyle Okposo
57 Blake Comeau - 12 Josh Bailey - 37 Jeremy Colliton
17 Matt Martin - 28 Zenon Konopka / 44 Rob Schremp - 14 Trevor Gillies

47 Andrew MacDonald - 36 Travis Hamonic
27 Milan Jurcina - 24 Radek Martinek
38 Jack Hillen - 42 Dylan Reese
6 Ty Wishart - 8 Bruno Gervais

39 Rick DiPietro
52 Kevin Poulin

Nathan Lawson (Knee)
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