Jack Capuano hasn’t been shy in expressing his frustration over the mounting injuries for the New York Islanders, and losing Josh Bailey for an extended period only adds to the coach’s concerns.
The potential return of Mikhail Grabovski probably couldn’t have come at a better time.
Grabovski could play Saturday night as the Islanders host a Dallas Stars team seeking its fifth win in six games.
New York (5-2-0) ended a two-game skid with Thursday’s 3-2 victory over Boston, getting second-period goals from Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck after Bailey earned an assist on Frans Nielsen’s goal in the first.
Bailey took a slash in the second period, though, and sustained a broken hand on the play. He’ll likely be out several weeks.
"(Bailey) was our best forward in the first period (Thursday), and over the last three or four games he’s been really good for us," Capuano told the team’s official website. "It’s just very unfortunate that this has to take place now, but it’s going to give other guys an opportunity to step up."
Forward Michael Grabner has yet to play this season following hernia surgery, while defenseman Travis Hamonic sat out against the Bruins due to an upper-body injury and is considered day to day. Grabovski missed his third straight contest with a concussion suffered Oct. 16 in a win over San Jose.
Grabovski, who signed a four-year, $20 million deal as a free agent, had two goals and an assist during the Islanders’ four-game winning streak to start the season. He participated fully in practice Friday on a line with Nielsen and Cory Conacher.
Nielsen’s goal against Boston was his first of the season to go along with four assists.
"It’s fun when you get the offensive role," Nielsen said. "I still want to do that, and it’s fun when you have to be really good defensively. I enjoy playing both sides of the ice."
The veteran’s two-way play has impressed Capuano most.
"He probably is one of the guys who plays the toughest minutes for us," Capuano said. "As we move on, he’s going to get more goals, he’s going to get more points."
Backup Chad Johnson made 30 saves in Thursday’s victory, putting Jaroslav Halak in line to make the start in this contest despite his struggles. Halak gave way to Johnson after allowing each goal through two periods of a 5-2 loss to Toronto in his last outing Tuesday, increasing his goals-against average to 3.39.
Halak is 4-1-0 with a 2.45 GAA in his last five against Dallas, which is 4-0-1 over its last five after beating New Jersey 3-2 in a shootout Friday.
Jamie Been has scored in each contest while adding four assists during that hot stretch for the Stars (4-1-2). Patrick Eaves also scored in regulation before Benn and Jason Spezza netted goals in the shootout.
”I thought (Friday) was by far our best game overall,” coach Lindy Ruff said. "We eliminated a lot of the mistakes. We got pucks out and put on some pressure in the neutral zone.”
Benn scored against the Islanders on Jan. 6, but John Tavares had a hat trick and two assists in New York’s 7-3 victory. Tavares then had a goal and an assist and Okposo scored twice as the Islanders swept last season’s series with a 4-2 victory Jan. 12.
Kari Lehtonen, who lost the first meeting, may not be in goal for the Stars after making 25 saves Friday. Backup Anders Lindback’s only start of the season was a 4-1 loss to Nashville on Oct. 11.