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Second Round

Clutterbuck game-time decision for Islanders in Game 3 against Hurricanes

Forward, key cog to 'identity line,' sustained undisclosed injury in previous game

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin have often been called the New York Islanders' identity line by coach Barry Trotz.

The three forwards have often been inserted to the starting lineup with the responsibility of setting the tone by playing a physical style and letting the opponent know it's not going to be an easy night.

But Clutterbuck is a game-time decision for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) with an undisclosed injury sustained during a 2-1 loss in Game 2 at Barclays Center on Sunday.

 

[RELATED: Full Islanders vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

Clutterbuck did not practice Tuesday, when Cizikas and Martin were joined by Tom Kuhnhackl. Trotz, who said Clutterbuck is day to day, knows the dynamic of the line changes when one is missing. The Islanders went 35-16-6 during the regular season when Clutterbuck, Cizikas and Martin were each in the lineup and 13-11-1 when one or more did not play.

"I think they're best when all three of them are together," Trotz said. "But whoever I put in there has to understand they do a good job communicating. I don't know if it would be the same or not until we do it, but we've had Cal out for a little bit this year and we put different people there.

"We'll just see where we are tomorrow morning, but Cal is coming on the trip and he's doing what he needs to do and we'll see where he is tomorrow and we'll make a decision. But I think it'll be a little bit different. It has to be. They've played so many minutes together as a group over the years. They know where they are instinctively."

Martin said it would be tough to play without Clutterbuck, but quickly cited how the Hurricanes have taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series despite a plethora of injuries to key players, a list that grew Sunday when goalie Petr Mrazek, defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and forward Saku Maenalanen all left Game 2. Carolina was already without forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland.

"It's a big blow; he's a big part of the team," Martin said of Clutterbuck. "He's in every situation. It would hurt, but at the end of the day, they have some guys out of the lineup too. Every team does. We've got guys waiting and wanting an opportunity to play."

That includes 22-year-old forward Michael Dal Colle, who would make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut if Clutterbuck is unable to play. Dal Colle, who hasn't played since April 4, practiced on New York's second line with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. A first-round pick (No. 5) at the 2014 NHL Draft, Dal Colle has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 32 NHL games.

"The last two or three weeks, it's just if and when I get an opportunity just staying ready," Dal Colle said. "I think I'm in good shape if that opportunity arises and when the opportunity comes, make the most of it.

"You dream of playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. [General manager Lou Lamoriello] has really put it on us that injuries can happen and you've always got to be ready. Obviously if that opportunity comes, there's going to be some nerves, some excitement. We're in a bit of a hole right now, so all of my focus is on helping the team win."

So the Islanders head to Carolina not knowing if the line that has defined them all season -- and in years past before Martin's two-season hiatus with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2016-17, 2017-18) -- will be intact for their biggest game yet, one that will go a long way to determine whether they get back in the series. But Martin knows it's a must-win situation, with or without Clutterbuck.

"Obviously, we've played together a long time," Martin said. "We have good chemistry together. For whatever reason, it seems to jell better than other situations. But I have played with [Kuhnhackl], I've played with [forward] Leo [Komarov], and we've had good games. Obviously for extended periods of time, we're probably not as effective as the three of us together. But we've just got to find a way and do whatever it takes to get a win tomorrow.

"They're missing guys up and down their lineup, and they're getting the job done. We've got to do the same. There's no excuses this time of year. Injuries happen. We just have to find a way to win."

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