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Islanders healing while awaiting next playoff opponent

Forward Clutterbuck, defenseman Mayfield return to practice for New York, which will face Capitals-Hurricanes winner

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have been off six days since completing a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round. 

It's an extended layoff for any Stanley Cup Playoff team, but it's been extremely beneficial for right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who practiced Monday for the first time since sustaining an undisclosed injury during New York's 3-1 win at Pittsburgh in Game 4 on April 16.

So while the Islanders await the winner of the first round between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes -- Washington leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 at PNC Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-CR, NBCSWA) -- the extra time at least allows players such as Clutterbuck to heal. Defenseman Scott Mayfield, who did not practice either Friday or Saturday, was also back on the ice. New York did not practice Sunday.

Video: NYI@PIT, Gm4: Mayfield plays goalie, protects lead

Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk is expected to be out 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury sustained while blocking a shot from Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson in the second period of Game 4. Forward Andrew Ladd is out for the season with a torn ACL, and forward Tanner Fritz is expected to skate soon after having surgery when a blood clot formed in his hand last month.

"You can look at it from both sides," Clutterbuck said. "Our choice is to look at it from the positive side, and that is, for myself especially, I was able to get a couple days that had we not had the time would have probably resulted in some lost time. It's nice to have a couple days."

Coach Barry Trotz said he was pleased with how the Islanders practiced "with a little bit more of a pop" and does not seem too concerned about the long layoff. In fact, he's hoping the Capitals and Hurricanes go the distance. 

Game 7 would be played in Washington on Wednesday.

"I want them to go seven if they can," Trotz said. "If we would have not beaten Pittsburgh in four games, then I don't know if a guy like [Clutterbuck] or Mayfield [would have been available].

"Right now, we had five guys out. Now, we only have three, and that's Johnny, Fritz and Ladd. When you get time, you can use it. Who knows, someone else might get nicked up tonight in that series. And mentally, it's more draining. Physically, it's more draining. It's a test of your backbone and your focus. We're using the time productively. We've practiced I think really quite well. We've been fairly competitive. Today was, by far, the best practice."

Clutterbuck did not have a point in the first round, but he and linemates Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin saw a lot of time against Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, who combined for two points (one goal, one assist).

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm2: Clutterbuck lays out Malkin on the rush

"He's a big part of that identity of that line," Trotz said of Clutterbuck. "I just think that when [Clutterbuck's] not there, he's such a useful player. He plays in late-game situations, he plays on the power play, he plays on the penalty kill. He has a little bit of an edge, getting under people's skin.

"There's so many layers to his game that when you look at the stats, there's more importance; there's overall contribution in a lot of those areas where there's not a lot of stats. He's a valuable guy for us, no question."

As is Mayfield, who was back with defense partner Devon Toews at practice. Mayfield is confident the extended time off won't hurt the Islanders when the second round finally gets underway.

"Rest is a weapon, I think," Mayfield said. "Especially in the playoffs, when it's kind of a grind playing every other night. No more intense games, and a little more adrenaline each game, so it's harder to come down from to get rest. It's a positive having the time off. We've just got to get ready for Game 1.

"We're itching a little bit. Guys are getting ready for Game 1. It's exciting."

Even if they still don't know when Game 1 will take place.

"It feels like we haven't played for a while," Trotz said. "During the season, especially the last half of the season, you're playing every second day, you're preparing every day for the next opponent. From the coaching side, you don't really take a day off. 

"We're doing twice the work, but you have four times the time. So it seems like we haven't played for a while."

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