It's the kind of surprise that ignites a tizzy among fans, many of whom had concluded, like the Islanders did after releasing Martinek from his preseason PTO, that he can no longer do the job of an NHL defenseman at age 37. You could theorize it also is a way to scare the underperforming Isles players. Or perhaps to cheer them up with the affable Czech's cheerful presence.
Or, more simply: Four pairs.
After Griffin Reinhart was returned to juniors to make room for Cal Clutterbuck's return from IR, the Islanders were back down to seven defensemen, an uneven number for practice purposes. Martinek, not exactly returning NHL contract offers to sender, was around informally in a "Miro Satan is currently skating at Iceworks" kind of way.
So fans hope.
It's only five games in, but the Islanders need to get back on their game, the game Jack Capuano and staff had designed for them, the game the staff thought they mastered last spring, the game that should lead to the majority of possession instead of what currently ranks among the worst even strength possession figures in the league.
They did video. They also still have a line blender going on. Newsday's Arthur Staple posted practice lines like this:
It's a little early for desperate line mixing -- though a shuffle the other night in Nashville preceded a couple of goals for. But it's not too early to drive it home to these players they really aren't playing like they played last season. Even if they need to say so in Czech.
With the Isles off tonight, fans have a chance to scout tomorrow's opponent as well as one of the Future Islanders who walked away: The Sabres host Nino Niederreiter and the Minnesota Wild tonight, televised nationally in the U.S. on NBC Sports Network. Buffalo is off to an awful start and Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are the subject of constant trade speculation among media and fans, including many who would love to see either wear orange and blue.
Have fun watching that, and chatting it all up here if you're so inclined.