Valtteri Filppula practiced with the Islanders on Wednesday morning for the first time since suffering a hyperextended elbow on March 19.
"It was a hyperextended elbow," Filppula confirmed. "Today was the first practice so we'll see how it's going to go. It felt good today. I'm really optimistic right now."
Filppula's original timeline was projected at four weeks, but veteran Finn could be back in the lineup as early as next week. The Isles third line center has missed seven straight games with the upper-body injury which he sustained in the first period against the Boston Bruins.
"He said the elbow was coming around here," coach Barry Trotz said. "He was with the group today and felt pretty good. Being realistic he could be ready [for next week]."
Filppula took line rushes in between Anthony Beauvillier and Leo Komarov. The Finn also practiced in his usual spot on the Islanders' penalty kill.
A Filppula return would be welcome for the Islanders, especially in the wake of Tanner Fritz's hand injury. Fritz was initially tapped to replace Filppula at the team's third line center.
"That'd be really big for us," Trotz said. "He's getting his strength back and all that."
In his first season with the Islanders, Filppula has 29 points (15G, 14A) through 71 games.
Lehner Given Day Off:
Robin Lehner was given the day off on Wednesday, as he is dealing with general soreness, per Trotz. In his absence, the Isles brought up goaltender Jeremy Smith from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to practice with the team. Trotz confirmed that Lehner will travel to Florida this afternoon and that Smith will return to Bridgeport.
"There's a good chance he could possibly go in [against Florida]," Trotz said. "We just kept him off for a little soreness. Nothing wrong with that. It's general [soreness]."
Lehner has received the nod for the past three games and has made 100 saves on 107 shots in that duration.
Hickey Could Return to Lineup on Road Trip:
Thomas Hickey was partnered with Nick Leddy during Wednesday's practice, signaling a return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for six straight games. Trotz said he hopes to get Hickey back in the lineup against either Florida or Washington to get some game reps leading up to the playoffs.
"I'd like to see him in another game here for sure," Trotz said. "Just trying to get the whole group ready."
The left-shot defenseman has four assists through his 39 games this season.