Islanders without Clutterbuck, Hickey in return from break

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It’s been an eventful few weeks for the New York Islanders.

They underwent a coaching change, found out on Monday they might have to find a new home, signed their new starting goaltender to a three-year contract extension, and before the All-Star break they started to play like the team we expected to see this season by going 6-1-1 in their previous eight games to work their way back into the playoff race.

They return to action after the All-Star break on Tuesday night against the NHL leading Washington Capitals. They will be a little shorthanded for that game as Cal Clutterbuck and Thomas Hickey will both be sidelined due to lower body injuries.

For Hickey, it will be his second consecutive game out of the lineup after missing their pre-break game against the Montreal Canadiens. Clutterbuck was also injured in that game and had to exit after playing just 8:59. At this point both players are considered to be day-to-day with their current ailments.

This is the beginning of what is going to be a huge second half for the Islanders. Entering play against Washington on Tuesday they still sit six points out of the second wild card spot in the Easter Conference, but still have three games in hand and two head-to-head matchups with the Philadelphia Flyers, the team they are chasing. It’s going to require a big second half performance to overcome that early deficit they put themselves in to make the playoffs, but their current position is a heck of a lot better than the one they were facing just a couple of weeks ago on Jan. 11 when they had the worst record in the East and were 10 points out of a playoff spot.