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Islanders' Grabner to sit out against Maple Leafs

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders will have some lineup changes when they meet Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.

Thomas Vanek skated with the team during the morning skate but will remain out of action with an upper-body injury. Joining him in the press box will be Michael Grabner, who took line rushes with Vanek and defenseman Radek Martinek but will be a healthy scratch. Grabner has gone 18 games without a goal and without a point in 12 games.

"I had a good talk with him," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Sometimes when you're squeezing your stick and things just don't seem to go your way, sometimes it's good to take a step back. I normally don't talk about conversations with players that I have with [the media], but [Grabner] is going to be fine for us."

The Islanders enter the game having won just two of their past seven games.

"It's just been up and down for us I think," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "We played some good stretches, we played well, but we haven't got a level of consistency that we played with toward the end of last season. It's just that mindset and it's a grind."

Capuano said goaltender Kevin Poulin will get the start. The Islanders recalled Anders Nilsson from the American Hockey League on Monday after putting starter Evgeni Nabokov on injured reserve.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs likely will have defenseman Morgan Rielly back in the lineup. Defenseman Mark Fraser was injured Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, and while he skated Tuesday it appears he’ll have a seat against the Islanders.

"Mark Fraser is doubtful and he's skating right now to see how his injury reacts, his lower-body injury reacts, to the rigors of the morning skate and a little extra," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said.

Rielly hasn't played since Nov. 13 against the Minnesota Wild. In 15 games this season he has six assists and a minus-4 rating while averaging 17:02 of ice time per game.

"I think Morgan is right on course," Carlyle said. "He's a 19-year-old defenseman that is trying to cut his teeth in the NHL. I think he's doing a heck of a job. … He's not overwhelmed by anything that goes on out there. When you see him join the rush and you see him make plays and you see his skating ability and you see those things, and you only see glimpses of it now, that there's a lot more coming with Morgan Rielly."

Phil Kessel missed practice Monday with the flu but skated in full Tuesday and will play against the Islanders.

Jonathan Bernier was the first goalie off at morning skate and likely will get the start for the Maple Leafs.

Here's a look at what the lineups for both teams could look like:


James van Riemsdyk - Peter Holland - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Trevor Smith - David Clarkson

Mason Raymond - Jay McClement - Nikolai Kulemin

Fraser McLaren - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Morgan Rielly - Paul Ranger

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Carter Ashton, Mark Fraser

Suspended: Nazem Kadri

Injured: Tyler Bozak (hamstring), Dave Bolland (ankle tendon)


Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Colin McDonald

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck

Eric Boulton - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Matt Donovan

Aaron Ness - Matt Carkner

Kevin Poulin

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Michael Grabner, Radek Martinek

Injured: Thomas Vanek (upper body), Evgeni Nabokov (groin), Brian Strait (upper body), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)

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