Cal Clutterbuck

Early returns: NHL players on getting back in small groups during Phase 2

As of Tuesday, we’re two days into Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. To put things mildly, not every NHL team has approached Phase 2 in the same way. Considering the protocols for opening things up, plenty haven’t gotten the puck rolling just yet.

This post aims to round up some of the perspectives from players who have gotten the chance to get back a bit, though. Please note that this isn’t a comprehensive list of every team back in action for Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

Matt Benning on the Oilers skating

One curious question is: how long does it take to shake off the rust. Considering that the NHL is still trying to hash out details for training camps (aka Phase 3), the answer appears subjective.

“If I’m off the ice for two days, it feels like I’ve never skated in my life before, so three months was a little bit nerve-wracking …” Oilers defenseman Matt Benning said.

Benning noted that it takes different players different amounts of time to get used to edgework and other skating factors. But it sounds like Benning specifically sits in the “more the merrier” camp. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

If you need a moment of zen, enjoy this footage of the Oilers beginning Phase 2:

*refreshed Ahhhhh*

Tavares doing Tavares things early in NHL Phase 2

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares is known for being something of a thinking man’s hockey star. Sometimes that drive can manifest itself in ways that are … honestly, kind of nerdy.

Tavares told reporters including TSN’s Karen Shilton that he quickly decided to start taping his sticks at home to get the most out of his time.

“There’s a pretty big-time crunch on being in the arena; you only have about 45 minutes to an hour to complete your workout and you’ve got about 40 minutes on the ice,” Tavares said. “The windows are fairly small, but the actual work we’re able to get in is going to go a long way in helping us prepare and get ready. The intensity is there.”

Shilton notes that Tavares is skating in a group with Jack Campbell, Cody Ceci, Mitch Marner, Ilya Mikheyev, and Jake Muzzin.

Josh Bailey among Islanders getting back to skating at facility

Bailey joined Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Thomas Greiss for small-group workouts. Bailey admitted feeling some rust, and that there’s no substitute for skating.

There’s also no substitute for family. Bailey acknowledged that the “hub city” system will take some getting used to. At least he’d have his Islanders teammates, though.

“It’ll definitely be different,” Bailey said, via Cory Wright of the Islanders’ website. “No matter how it all comes together, when, how, if, whatever the case may be. It won’t be what we are accustomed to. But when you’re with the team it kind of gives you that feeling of normalcy.”

Plenty still needs to be settled before NHL goes from Phase 2 to Phase 3

Overall, the Phase 2 return to ice seems more like a trickle than a stampede.

For every instance such as Marc-Andre Fleury getting geared up with the Golden Knights, there are players who want to avoid taking risks, or teams facing restrictions.

In some cases, players are able to skate on their own. During an appearance on “Lunch Talk Live,” Blake Wheeler explained that he’s been able to get some reps in with Adam Oates in the Boca Raton area in Florida.

MORE NHL RETURN TO PLAY:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Johnny Boychuk needs 90 stitches after skate to face

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New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was injured on Tuesday night when he was hit in the face by the skate blade of Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen in the third period of their game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It was a terrifying scene as it happened, especially as Boychuk frantically scrambled off the ice holding his face.

On Wednesday, general manager Lou Lamoriello issued an update on Boychuk’s status.

The official word is that while Boychuk needed 90 stitches to repair the cut, there is no damage to his eye and, according to Lamoriello, he should be “fine.”

“Johnny Boychuk is okay,” said Lamoriello when addressing the media on Wednesday. “There has been no damage to his eye. He had quite a night. He felt the skate blade get his eye, but fortunately it just got the eyelid. It took 90 stitches to fix, a plastic surgeon took care of it. I don’t want to exaggerate with the stitches because they do use very small stitches, but there were 90 of them. He will be fine. It’s just a matter of time with the eye opening up and him feeling good.”

It goes without saying that 90 stitches to your eye-lid area is major deal, but given the circumstances Boychuk is very fortunate this situation did not turn out far worse.

This is the third significant injury the Islanders have had to deal with this season due to a skate blade cut.

Cal Clutterbuck missed more than two months after he suffered a cut to his wrist from Patrice Bergeron‘s skate back in December.

Casey Cizikas has also been sidelined for the past 10 games after a cut to the leg.

Lamoriello also issued an update on Cizikas on Wednesday.

“Casey is coming along as quickly as he can,” said Lamoriello. “He is walking, he is doing all of the things he should be doing. Hopefully we will get him back on the ice in the next week or so. Then it’s a process of him just getting his strength back. I would say he is at least another couple of weeks away.”

Related: Islanders’ Boychuk injured by skate blade

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Islanders’ Boychuk injured by skate against Canadiens

Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk clipped with skate
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(UPDATE: Boychuk needed 90 stitches after skate to face.)

It was not a scene for the faint of heart.

Johnny Boychuk covered his face and bolted for the locker room after a skate caught him up high. The Islanders defenseman was escorting Artturi Lehkonen away from the net when the Canadiens forward fell, and clipped Boychuk with his skate.

After the game, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Boychuk was being evaluated.

“It’s a scary situation,” captain Anders Lee said after the 6-2 loss. “You hate to see that happen.”

“It’s not good,” said Cal Clutterbuck. “Not easy to see. Not good at all.”

This is the third time this season the Islanders have lost a player due to a skate blade. Clutterbuck suffered a gash on his wrist against the Bruins on December 19th and returned to the lineup this past Saturday. Casey Cizikas was cut on his leg with a skate against the Flyers in February.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL Injury roundup: Yamamoto out for Oilers; Kuemper returns for Coyotes

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Checking in on some injury news around the NHL.

Another injury for Oilers

On Monday the Edmonton Oilers made two pretty significant trades to improve their forward lineup with the additions of Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis.

Those additions are taking on even more importance on Tuesday because of yet another injury to an already battered lineup.

The Oilers announced on Tuesday that promising young forward Kailer Yamamoto is going to be sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to an ankle injury. The Oilers are already playing without James Neal, Oscar Klefbom, and Kris Russell due to injuries. Connor McDavid had also missed six games before returning to the lineup on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Yamamoto, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, has taken a huge step this season in his development and is currently averaging a point per game (20 points in 20 games) this season.

Kuemper back for Coyotes

Some significant news for the Coyotes in their playoff push on Tuesday as starting goalie Darcy Kuemper returns to the lineup when the team hosts the Florida Panthers.

Kuemper, who currently owns the NHL’s highest save percentage this season (.929) among qualified goalies, has not played since Dec. 19.

The Coyotes enter the game clinging to a playoff spot following a month-long slump through most of January and February. They have, however, won three of their past five games and have two in a row at home against the Panthers and Sabres and are now getting their best goalie back for the stretch run. As long as Antti Raanta stays healthy they have one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL right now.

Markstrom’s injury will be tough for Canucks

Jacob Markstrom has been the underrated star of the Canucks’ turnaround this season and, very quietly, one of the league’s best goalies.

Now he is going to be sidelined for a yet-to-be-determined period of time, leaving the Canucks’ goal crease in the hands of Thatcher Demko and trade deadline acquisition Louis Domingue. The Canucks have lost six of their past nine games and a brutal schedule ahead of them that includes a four-game road trip that starts tonight in Montreal.

If Markstrom’s injury turns out to be significant, that might be the difference between a playoff spot and an early summer.

Clutterbuck back with Islanders

Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice with the Islanders on Tuesday, but he is not yet ready to return to game action for their game against New York Rangers tonight.

He has been sidelined since December due to an ugly cut he suffered when his wrist was hit by the skate blade of Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron.

He recently played two games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

Tarasenko getting closer

The St. Louis Blues did not add another winger before the trade deadline on Monday, but that does not mean some extra help is not on the horizon.

All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is back skating with the team and inching closer to a potential return to the lineup, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.

Armstrong said on Tuesday that Tarasenko will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, not because he is going to play, but to further assimilate himself with the team. When they return from that trip Armstrong said they will be able to sit with Tarasenko and the team doctors to figure out a return date for him. That update comes via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Islanders recall Ladd; Clutterbuck out indefinitely after surgery

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The New York Islanders will be without Cal Clutterbuck for the foreseeable future after undergoing surgery on his left wrist.

He was injured in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night when the skate blade of Patrice Bergeron cut his wrist.

General manager Lou Lamoriello said on Saturday (via NHL.com) that the cut was “clean” and there were no complications. He added that Clutterbuck did not even need to stay overnight following the surgery. The Islanders are confident Clutterbuck will be back this season, but the time frame depends on the healing process.

With Clutterbuck sidelined, the team also announced that veteran forward Andrew Ladd has been recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. He is not in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Ladd is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $38 million contract that has not worked out as anyone planned. After two disappointing years, Ladd’s 2018-19 season was cut short by injuries, including a torn ACL.

The team placed him on waivers before this season and sent him to Bridgeport once he cleared. In 19 games with the Sound Tigers this season he has seven goals and two assists.

In 177 games with the Islanders Ladd has 38 goals and 71 total points.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.