The New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs both hoped to infuse young players into their respective lineups during rebuilding seasons. Injuries, however, have hindered the youth movement for both teams.
A pair of struggling clubs meet at Air Canada Centre on Monday night as the Maple Leafs try to end a three-game skid while the Islanders seek their second win in six contests.
With first-year coaches and the lack of any star players, New York (10-14-2) and Toronto (9-12-6) both figured to struggle to make the playoffs this season. Nearly one-third of the way into the season, the Islanders are 13th in the Eastern Conference while the Maple Leafs are 12th.
Rookie right wing Kyle Okposo (wrist) and third-year center Frans Nielsen (leg) were going to get every opportunity to make an impact for the Islanders in 2008-09, but both are currently out with long-term injuries.
Also nursing injuries are goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee), defensemen Radek Martinek (shoulder) and Bruno Gervais (leg) and center Mike Comrie (hip).
The Islanders' lack of depth was evident Saturday as they were routed at home 5-1 by Atlanta, which is 14th in the East with 21 points.
Bill Guerin had the only goal for New York, which has lost four of five, allowing 22 goals in those four defeats.
Joey MacDonald may be showing signs of fatigue as he allowed five goals on 17 shots in his 16th consecutive start. MacDonald is 1-4-0 with a 4.00 goals-against average in his past five games after going 7-3-1 with a 2.40 GAA in his previous 11 starts.
"I felt great coming in," MacDonald said. "It was one of those games where the harder you worked, the worse it got."
One of the players Toronto hopes to build around for years to come is rookie defenseman Luke Schenn, picked fifth overall in this year's draft.
Schenn, 19, only had two assists in 27 games, but has been logging plenty of ice time for the Leafs so losing him for at least two weeks with a lower body injury isn't good news for a team that is 2-6-2 in its last 10 games.
"We're looking at a minimum of two weeks right now," Toronto coach Ron Wilson told the team's official Web site. "Beyond that we have to wait until tomorrow just to see. It's not anything really major. We'll probably have to call a defenseman up."
Schenn was injured Saturday in Toronto's 2-1 loss to visiting Washington, as was forward Niklas Hagman, who is third on the team with 18 points. Hagman took a knee in the head and was feeling groggy, but is considered day-to-day.
The Leafs, winners of four of 13 home games (4-5-4) this season, have scored only six goals during their three-game losing streak, one shy of a season high.
Since losing four of five to the Leafs, the Islanders are 5-2-0 in the last seven meetings. Ruslan Fedotenko - now with Pittsburgh - scored twice in New York's 5-4 victory at Toronto on Feb. 14.