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Cal Clutterbuck nearing return to Islanders

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Lane Lambert sounded optimistic Monday about Cal Clutterbuck’s chances of playing the Islanders’ match Tuesday night against the Canucks. The right winger nevertheless remained out for the 6-2 victory with a right finger injury.

“He’s getting closer,” Lambert said following the Islanders’ morning skate, in which Clutterbuck participated. “We’ll see as this trip goes along.”

The Islanders play back-to-back in Edmonton and Calgary starting Thursday before they have three days off upon returning home. Clutterbuck took line rushes with Aatu Raty and Matt Martin on Monday.

Of the five Islanders currently dealing with injuries, Clutterbuck, who hasn’t played since Dec. 16, is the closest to returning.

Kyle Palmieri (upper body) has been skating, but has not been going full throttle in practices. He was on the ice for an optional skate Tuesday morning. Simon Holmstrom (knee), Adam Pelech (upper body) and Oliver Wahlstrom (head) did not travel with the team. Semyon Varlamov (groin) was activated on Monday.

Cal Clutterbuck
Cal Clutterbuck
NHLI via Getty Images

The Islanders have some connections with wing Jakub Vrana, who was shockingly placed on waivers Tuesday morning by the Red Wings. Lambert coached Vrana as an assistant with the Capitals and Vrana’s agent, J.P. Barry, also represents Mathew Barzal.

The Islanders could handle Vrana’s $5.25 million cap hit if they chose to pick up the former 25-goal scorer off waivers.

Vrana entered the player assistance program in October and was in the midst of a conditioning stint with AHL Grand Rapids before being waived. He has played two games this season and has an injury history, undergoing shoulder surgery last season.

Whether or not general manager Lou Lamoriello would be willing to overlook those issues to bring Vrana to Long Island is not clear. But on paper, Vrana is the kind of goal scorer the Islanders could use in their top six.

Lambert said he did not address the team about Damar Hamlin, the NFL Bills safety who collapsed during the game Monday in Cincinnati, but players have discussed it among themselves.

“Everybody … knows what happened,” Lambert said. “Certainly, I think they definitely made the right call in doing what they did in terms of the game. The guys have talked about it for sure.”

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