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Islanders keep winning despite rash of injuries at forward

Johnston, AHL call-up Bardreau making impact with several key players out of lineup

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have won seven games in a row, their longest such streak in almost 30 years, despite several forwards being out with injuries.

Jordan Eberle (lower body) hasn't played since Oct. 12. Leo Komarov has been out with an illness since Oct. 17. Casey Cizikas (lower body) missed five games. Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl each sustained a lower-body injury Oct. 25 that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Andrew Ladd is still working his way back after tearing his ACL on March 24.

But Barry Trotz, the reigning Jack Adams Award winner, voted as NHL coach of the year, won't allow any pouting or excuses. It's next man up.

"It's a group effort commitment," Trotz said at the Islanders practice facility Monday. "We've won a couple games maybe ugly. Anytime you run into any kind of streak, you need a little bit of luck, you need a lot of commitment from guys, and your goaltenders have to be really good and steal us a game or two, and I think they've done a real good job of that.

"We can get a lot better at our game; we've won seven games, but in some ways, it doesn't feel like it because we've played some games that it felt like we could have lost very easily or we got a little bit of good fortune."

Video: PHI@NYI: Bardreau earns point on Johnston's goal

With so many key forwards unable to play, the Islanders have had to look elsewhere for production. Right wing Oliver Wahlstrom, the No. 11 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and made his NHL debut Oct. 14, when the winning streak got underway in a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory against the St. Louis Blues. Left wing Ross Johnston, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound heavyweight, scored in New York's most recent win, 5-3 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

Johnson's goal was set up by 26-year-old center Cole Bardreau, who overcame two serious injuries to make his NHL debut in a 3-2 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 19.

"I think I dislocated my shoulder when I threw my hands up, I was so excited," Bardreau said of his first NHL point.

Bardreau's road to the NHL has hardly been smooth; he broke his neck while playing at Cornell University, then sustained a serious hand injury from a fight while with Lehigh Valley of the AHL, where he played the past four seasons before signing a two-way contract with the Islanders in July.

"I got a bad infection from a tooth of all things," Bardreau said. "I didn't know until a couple days later. I had to get rushed into emergency surgery before I lost my hand. I've had like seven surgeries done on it. This infection wore away at my cartilage, and it's been painful ever since. In the summer, I finally just fused it. I can't move it and it looks brutal, but it's starting to feel a lot better.

"My broken neck story gets all the news, but really this one was kind of the hardest one I've been through."

Bardreau's first day in the NHL actually started at Bridgeport's morning skate, the same day Komarov started feeling sick. Bardreau raced down Interstate 95 to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and made it to Columbus roughly 90 minutes before opening face-off.

"I couldn't talk," he said. "It just came out of nowhere. I really couldn't talk. So many emotions. I didn't have anything to read on the plane, so I was crying, I was smiling. Luckily, no one was sitting next to me. … It definitely makes getting here a lot more sweeter too when you've been through all that adversity."

Video: Goring discusses impact of Islanders' latest injuries

Bardreau has quickly earned the respect of his coach and teammates, who said they appreciate how hard he's worked and how much he's overcome to reach the pinnacle.

"Sometimes, all you need is that opportunity," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "That mentality of next guy up has worked for us, but someone like Cole who has come in and given everything he has, it's really played to that precedent we've tried to set.

"It's the unfortunate side of our game that injuries can happen. We've got to fill shoes."

Impressed with Bardreau's play at center, Trotz has moved Derick Brassard to left wing, a move that at least for the time being has worked well. Brassard has scored in three straight games after not having any goals in his first eight games with New York; Bardreau had the assist and two hits in 7:51 on Sunday.

"Those guys don't have entitlement, and because of that, sometimes they have a better attitude," Trotz said of Bardreau and Johnston. "They've had to scratch and claw their way up the pole a little bit."

Trotz said Komarov has started working out again, but it's hard to imagine he'll be ready to return when the Islanders (8-3-0) play again Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nassau Coliseum (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, MSG+, SUN, NHL.TV). Bardreau said he knows he has to make it difficult on Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello to send him back to Bridgeport once his teammates start getting healthy.

"It's been a roller coaster," Bardreau said. "The biggest thing for me is to just kind of live in the moment and take advantage and take it all in, because it could be over tomorrow.

"I've worked so hard to get here. I might as well enjoy it."

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