The Islanders practiced Wednesday morning before heading to Florida for their penultimate game of the regular season, and there was a piece of encouraging news regarding their center depth.
Valtteri Filppula returned to practice for the first time since suffering what he revealed was a hyperextended elbow on March 19. The next day he was ruled out for four weeks, but he told NHL.com's Brian Compton that he could be ready for Game 1 of the first round last week. Barry Trotz also didn't rule Filppula out for Game 1.
"It was a hyperextended elbow. Today was the first practice so we'll see how it's going to go. It felt good today. I'm really optimistic right now," Filppula said, according to the Islanders.
Filppula being healthy to play in Game 1 would be huge for the Islanders as they've been using a committee at their third-line center spot. Things got worse when Tanner Fritz was ruled out six-to-eight weeks after undergoing blood-clot surgery on his hand.
Meanwhile, goaltender Robin Lehner didn't practice Wednesday because of what Trotz described as general soreness, per Newsday. Lehner will travel and could play Thursday.
Trotz seems to have decided which goalie he'll start in Game 1 of the first round next, week, though he certainly wasn't willing to give that away just yet. "Come to the game, get a ticket," Trotz said, according to Compton.