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Islanders' Halak progressing; no timetable for return

Goalie has been sidelined since sustaining lower-body injury March 8

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak knew something was wrong immediately when he sustained a lower-body injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 8. He just wasn't sure how bad it was.

Nearly two months later, Halak is still working his way back, finally practicing with his teammates, who have managed to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs without their No. 1 goaltender. 

Video: PIT@NYI: Halak leaves game with injury

The Islanders host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Barclays Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

"You never know at the beginning," Halak said Monday, speaking with reporters for the first time since the injury. "Obviously everybody's different with injuries and obviously it's not good timing. It's not easy to come back, but I'm just trying to do my best. That's all I can do."

Halak's backup, Thomas Greiss, has been a major storyline in the playoffs. Greiss made at least 41 saves in three of New York's four wins against the Florida Panthers in the first round, and had 33 saves in the 5-3 win in Game 1 against Tampa Bay. Halak said he's not the least bit surprised.

"He's been playing well," Halak said of Greiss, who has a 2.06 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in eight games this postseason. "I've said many times that you need two goalies to play well during the season. Obviously it was bad timing for me to get injured, but I'm just trying to work my way back to the lineup and back to the bench."

Given how well Greiss has performed, it's difficult to envision Halak starting when he's healthy enough to return. But he's inching closer to becoming available. Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Monday that Halak "is progressing," but there is no timetable for his return.

"We'll see. Day by day right now," said Halak, who went 18-13-4 with a 2.30 GAA and a .919 SV% in the regular season. "That's all I can say. I've been skating with the team, I've felt good. We'll see.

"Of course it's hard when you get injured. It's always hard just to watch the guys from the press box or from home and not able to help. But I think they've done a good job and obviously now I'm just trying to get back. We'll see. Just take it day by day right now. That's all I can do. Hopefully I'll be back soon."

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