Finally, there was a Josh Ho-Sang sighting again on Islanders ice, or at least their slice of practice ice.
They called up the tantalizing 22-year-old forward from Bridgeport on Sunday, the 2014 first-round pick who has hit some bumps on and off the ice in his past.
Coach Barry Trotz said Ho-Sang has “made strides” in his game. GM Lou Lamoriello said he was “playing extremely well.” But Lamoriello said he’s only here now “as a depth player” due to minor injuries. So Ho-Sang’s stay may be short.
Tom Kuhnhackl suffered an undisclosed injury in Saturday’s morning skate at Detroit. He sat out the 3-2 win and Sunday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center, but Lamoriello said he could’ve skated and is day-to-day. Anders Lee suffered facial cuts in the game and also didn’t practice. Lamoriello called it “maintenance.”
Trotz will evaluate the personnel situation before Monday night’s game against Pittsburgh at the Coliseum and determine whether Ho-Sang is needed.
“For me, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here,” Ho-Sang said.
Ho-Sang overslept the first day of his first training camp in 2015, ending that stay. He split time between Bridgeport and the Islanders the following two seasons, but he was critical last season of how he was being handled by the Garth Snow/Doug Weight regime.
The new Lamoriello/Trotz regime sent him down during the preseason. It’s an important season for Ho-Sang, the final one in his three-year, $3.41 million deal.
“I just want to play,” Ho-Sang said. “I’m going to play hard. I want to make sure that they can trust me, and in return, I’ll be able to create offensively for them.”
Asked whether he worried about what the organization thought of him while he was in Bridgeport, Ho-Sang said, “No, I don’t worry too much about what anyone thinks about me, to be honest.”
So what does the organization think of him?
“If we didn’t think something of him, he wouldn’t be here today,” Lamoriello said.
He said Ho-Sang “created whatever transpired” previously. But Lamoriello said there have been no attitude issues this season, and that Ho-Sang has tried to become “a complete player” and “a little more defensive minded.” Trotz said he has also worked on “the intensity shift to shift.”
But Ho-Sang only scored twice to go with 20 assists in 26 games. Lamoriello said he needs to shoot more.
“I love passing the puck so much, sometimes it gets in my way,” Ho-Sang said. “To me, I’m always looking for other guys. Sometimes I’m not looking at the net. … It’s something I work on every day.”
Notes & quotes: Goalie Robin Lehner is healthy again, so Christopher Gibson was sent down to Bridgeport. … Defenseman Scott Mayfield had a maintenance day. … Defenseman Luca Sbisa suffered a “tweak” in Saturday’s morning skate and is day-to-day. … Center Mathew Barzal said it’s “nice to get another crack” at the Penguins after Thursday’s 6-2 loss. He said, “Obviously, we kind of embarrassed ourselves in Pittsburgh that night.”