The photo we ran this morning was not some kind of Photoshop mock-up. A few Islanders did gather for their first informal skate today and Newsday's Arthur Staple provided a few notes and updates.
First, the line-up
lList of skaters at #Isles workout today: Grabovski, Nielsen, Cizikas, Martin, Boychuk, Hickey, Strait, Kulemin, Greiss, Grabner.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
Also on the ice: Stephon Williams, Boulton, Bracken Kearns, John Schiavo.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
Of note: John Tavares was taking part in the NHL's media day in Toronto and Cal Clutterbuck did not skate but has been on Long Island for a while.
Among the tidbits from today's #Isles skate: Frans Nielsen says his ankle feels great. Hampered him immensely over final two months last yr.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
Nielsen not concerned about entering final year of deal. "I've been here long enough that winning is what matters most. We finally have...— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
"... The team we always wanted, so this is where I want to be. We'll figure something out I'm sure."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
It wasn't until after the season was over that we found out about Nielsen's high ankle sprains (yes, two), which he apparently suffered first in late February, then again in April. At 31, Nielsen is beginning (or more likely in the throes of) his decline, but fully if operational, he would be a huge boost to the Islanders on the ice or to Garth Snow on the trading block.
Mikhail Grabovski rested up for most of the summer after suffering two concussions last season. "Maybe I have to be more aware on the ice...— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
"... It's not a lot of space out there anymore, so I need to change my game a little. You get older, you get smarter, right?"— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 8, 2015
Grabovski's first year as an Islander was hampered by two concussions, one in October and one in February. His underlying numbers remained as productive as ever, but you can never be too careful with head injuries and he missed a ton of time before returning for a few playoff games.
If a fully operational Nielsen would be helpful, adding a fully productive Grabovski, who has better offensive instincts and can play wing as well, would be a boon and a half. We have yet to see Grabovski's best, but after a full offseason of rest and recovery, it's possible we're close to getting a look.