Barry Trotz didn’t want to put a timetable on it, but there is a distinct possibility Valtteri Filppula could be ready at some point during the first round of the playoffs.
The third-line center was on the ice Monday morning, joining the extras for a quick skate with no contact before the team played host to John Tavares and the Maple Leafs at the Coliseum. Filppula has been out since he suffered what is presumably a left-shoulder injury March 19, and was set to miss his seventh straight game. The original time frame for the injury was four weeks, which would bring him back on April 16.
The Islanders’ first-round playoff series will start either April 10, or the following day, meaning April 16 should be right around Game 3 or 4. It should be curious to see if the 35-year-old Filppula can get up to speed and go right into the lineup, but Trotz has already seen his team weather the injury quite well.
“Next guy up. We haven’t complained about it,” Trotz said. “When you make a big deal out of something that’s not normal, then it becomes a big deal. We haven’t done that. We’ve said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to play out of position and I’ve got to get the job done. The guy next to me is counting on me to get it done.’ And they do.”
Going into Monday night, the Islanders could still finish anywhere from atop the Metropolitan Division to the second wild card. Trotz said he would consider resting players at some point, but not until the seed was set.
“I’d consider it, if everybody is healthy,” he said. “Based on who they are, how many minutes [they play], are they totally healthy or are they nicked up a little bit. Those are things that you consider. And where we are. Right now, want to play.”
Robin Lehner got his third straight start on Monday, his fifth start in the past six games. Yet Trotz said his plan for his goaltending tandem, along with Thomas Greiss, has not changed now that the playoffs are around the corner.
“Our focus is on winning hockey games and securing the best spot we can. It really hasn’t changed,” Trotz said. “I’ve gone with a little bit of a plan, a little bit of a gut here and there. I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot. We feel very confident that both can go in and do the job.”