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Filppula could return to Islanders in time for playoffs

Center has missed seven games because of hyperextended elbow

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Valtteri Filppula could return from an elbow injury for the New York Islanders in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.

Filppula, who hyperextended his elbow during a 5-0 loss against the Boston Bruins on March 19 and has missed seven games, was a full participant at practice Wednesday. The 35-year-old center has 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) in 71 games this season, his first with the Islanders.

New York (46-27-7), which clinched a playoff berth with a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, is in second place in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Washington Capitals and two ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Each team has two regular-season games remaining.

The Islanders finish their regular season with two road games; against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F,MSG+, NHL.TV) and at the Capitals on Saturday.

"It didn't feel good, so I figured something's probably going on," Filppula said. "But I'm happy for this quick to be feeling this good.

"Today was the first practice, so we'll see how it's going to go. Everything felt good today, so I'm happy with that."

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The Islanders still do not know who they will face in the Eastern Conference First Round and may not know until the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday. But regardless of opponent, coach Barry Trotz realizes what a healthy Filppula, who has played a key role at even strength and on special teams this season, would mean for his lineup.

"He said the elbow was coming around here," Trotz said. "He was with the group today and he felt pretty good, so it's realistic he could be ready [for the start of the playoffs].

"That would be really big for us. He's getting his strength back. That's what happens when you get nicked up a little bit, but that comes around pretty quick, usually anybody that's hurt an elbow."

Filppula has played 158 playoff games in his NHL career with 82 points (25 goals, 57 assists) and won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. He reached the Final again with Detroit in 2009 and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015.

"He's one of our leaders," Islanders center Casey Cizikas said. "He's so smart out there, he's always in the right spot and he always makes the right play and he's huge for our [penalty] kill. To have him back is a massive addition."

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