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Brassard to Wing, Line Changes Coming? Maybe.

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Barry Trotz tinkers as the Islanders return from a layoff.

New York Islanders v Winnipeg Jets
Just look at that faceoff effort, clearly the man is a center.
Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

When the lines from Wednesday’s New York Islanders practice were observed and/or tweeted out, there were a couple changes of note, but one in particular that could reflect on the fortunes of an offseason signing:

Derick Brassard, a somewhat late-summer UFA signing (i.e. “Hey, we are prepared to play with or without you so here’s our best, one-year offer”), to fill the Valtteri Filppula void at center, was now on the left wing.

However, coach Barry Trotz’s post-practice comments put that theory into some question:

“[Moving Brassard to wing is] something we may look at, he’s played both (wing and center). I wanted Casey [Cizikas] to get a full practice in today, so I moved [Brassard] there because we had Cole Bardreau — he does both as well, but I thought I’d move Brass up there.”

Later in the scrum, Trotz spoke of Josh Bailey’s versatility, with him occupying the right wing spot (at least in practice) where the injured Jordan Eberle normally calls home.

But to reset the Brassard scene: Since Cizikas left the lineup due to injury, the Islanders have juggled makeshift bottom-six mixes, especially in the void left by the “Best Fourth Line In Hockey,” with Leo Komarov and then Bardreau getting time at center in very limited minutes.

Essentially, whereas the fully healthy version of the Islanders is a four-line team, when Cizikas is out that breaks the fourth line and also turns them into a three-line team plus your occasional Bardreau-and-Ross Johnston type of supplement.

So one read on the situation is simply that with Cizikas returning to practice for two days, they wanted to give him a full fitness test and also not jerk Bardreau around while he’s here after his NHL debut. Hence the move of Brassard to the wing, where he’s not unfamiliar, and bumping Bailey back up next to Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.

But is there more to it? Is Brassard’s middling results motivating the Isles to move him into a new role? Maybe so, maybe not. At least publicly, Trotz has not lost faith in Brassard, and he answered a question about Brassard’s adjustment with a little bit of reality and a little bit of a vote of confidence:

“It’s a transitional period for him. I think there’s another level of acceptance if you will, to fitting in, in terms of role. But he’s done it all with a great attitude, that starts everything. He’ll succeed.”

We’ll see, and soon. If Cizikas is ready to go Thursday against the Coyotes, they’ll need a move to pull him off IR. It’s possible Komarov, who missed practice again after being the illness scratch that caused Bardreau’s recall, takes his place.

Or it’s possible (and easiest) that Bardreau’s cup of coffee is over and he goes back to AHL Bridgeport. And a more extreme alternative would be to return Oliver Wahlstrom, though that would demand yet another level of belief in Tom Kuhnhackl, who is always a threat to ruin our rosterbations.

However it shakes out, the Islanders need more from the third line, be it with Brassard or someone else as its center. On one hand, it’s only been eight games — though that’s a tenth of the season; on the other hand, it continues a downward trend for him going back to multiple teams last season.