Ryan Pulock is still out, so recent hopes that the injured defenseman would be ready for a series debut in Game 3 have been dashed. Jack Capuano told reporters this morning that the defenseman is still out. Newsday reported that he left practice early on Monday and wasn't on the ice at all Tuesday morning, a possible indication of a setback or at least pause in his recovery from an "upper body" injury suffered in the first round.
But Capuano later re-iterated that Pulock "Ryan isn’t feeling up to par yet, but he’s close."
Strome Scratched as Bailey Returns
Then there is the matter of Ryan Strome. The young Islanders forward was scratched for the final two games of the first round -- both Islanders overtime wins -- but returned for Games 1 and 2 in Tampa where his two assists were big factors in their Game 1 win.
Still, the coaching staff has been disappointed with his play away from the puck (indeed, that was a factor in the first goal against in Game 1), a perception that haunts him once again. Officially, coach Jack Capuano said the forward lineup tonight was "to be determined," in traditional playoff style. But it was clear when Strome spoke with reporters that he wasn't in the plans for Game 3.
Strome was understandably not wanting to dwell on it too much to media.
Strome doesn't want "to draw too much negative attention to myself. It's all about the team rt now." But clearly mad, disappointed,confused.— Peter Botte (@PeterBotte) May 3, 2016
Strome confirms he's out. "Sucks, but there isn't a lot to say. It's an important time at home and the guys that are in will do the job,"— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) May 3, 2016
Newsday's story on the lineup moves had more from Strome, including:
"Last series [the message was] I needed to be a little harder to play against," Strome said. "Points don’t always tell the whole story..."
See the full story for more.
If the knock on Strome among coaches is not doing enough away from the puck, his replacement tonight seems almost immune to such concerns. Josh Bailey, whose work in the corners helped create two overtime winners last series and whose injury created the opening for Strome to return to the lineup for Games 1 and 2, is known among coaches and teammates for a disciplined defensive conscience.
But it's not always on display, which is why many fans think there's a double standard, or an unbalanced allocation of emphasis. Bailey has had some memorable moments of checking out of plays too. By some on-ice shot attempt metrics, Bailey was one of the worst forwards among both teams in the Isles-Panthers series:
While points (and shots) aren't everything, Bailey has one assists in his five-plus games after being injured early in the sixth.
But like so many NHL coaches, Jack Capuano emphasizes "experienced" players during the playoffs, and includes the 26-year-old, 557-games-played Bailey among those. Steve Bernier, 33, who was a healthy scratch much of the season and who sat through the first round until Strome's scratches, also carries that label and is expected to remain in the lineup tonight.
The coaches are clearly seeking predictability and adherence to the team structure. Strome, still just 22, will have to wait for his next turn to convince them he's on board.
Maybe he can take inspiration from Pulock, another youngster who had to bide his time this season even after being recalled from the AHL. But now all signs point to Pulock earning the trust of the staff to bump 39-year-old Marek Zidlicky from the lineup, if only health would cooperate.