The Islanders will have to deal with the reality that defenseman Johnny Boychuk will be out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. Boychuk suffered the injury on New Year’s Eve against the Buffalo Sabres when he crashed into the board after missing a hit on Sabres forward Jack Eichel. Boychuk will not need surgery for the injury, likely believed to be his left shoulder. The 31-year-old has 3 goals and 11 assists with a plus 9 rating in 38 games this season. New York went 5-4 when Boychuk missed 9 games in November/December last season. New York’s personnel decisions might change as a result of Boychuk’s injury.
Where to go from here
While the scoring from their defensemen is down, the Isles d-men have played strong defensively. They have given up an average of 2.43 goals per game. The two games Boychuk has missed to the injury the Islanders have allowed 10 goals (5 vs the Penguins on Saturday, 5 vs the Stars on Sunday). Head coach Jack Capuano has his work cut juggling the defensive pairings. Thomas Hickey, who has been a mainstay on the third pairing, moved up Sunday to the second pairing with 38-year-old Marek Zidlicky. While Calvin de Haan moved down to the third pairing with rookie Adam Pelech, who was called up following the Johnny Boychuk injury.
Capuano on Boychuk. "It's going to be a little while for him. Definitely a huge loss for us but we have to step up and do the job."
— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 1, 2016
Pelech has not disappointed in his 3 games with the big club. This is his second call-up this season. He looks extremely poised out there. There is nothing flashy about him, just a solid looking player. In Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Stars, Pelech was a plus 2 and played over 16 minutes of ice time. Capuano even had Pelech out there in the last minute of Sunday’s win. The 6’3″ defenseman is more defensive-minded than 2013 first-round-pick Ryan Pulock. The 2012 3rd-round-pick has played on the penalty kill unit with Bridgeport. Boychuk is a mainstay on the Isles PK unit. Pulock does not in Bridgeport. Pulock, a right-shot defenseman, has started to play on the left side with the Sound Tigers, likely to get ready for a potential call-up. Pelech will likely rotate in and out with Zidlicky and Brian Strait. The Isles can not survive 4-6 weeks with both Strait and Zidlicky both in the lineup. Sound Tigers defensemen Scott Mayfield and Jesse Graham are also candidates for potential call-ups.
The Hamonic situation
When the news broke in November that Travis Hamonic requested a trade prior to the season, Islanders fans were shocked. General manager Garth Snow would do everything he could to accommodate Hamonic, who requested a trade to Western Canada due to family issues. Snow would not just give away his valuable defenseman, who is on a team friendly contract. Hamonic has a $3.857 cap hit through the 2019-20 season. The 25-year-old has been one of the team’s best players. Now that Boychuk is out for a while, there is no chance that Snow trades Hamonic. In fact, Hamonic has been called upon to play more minutes (28:17 vs the Penguins, 25:53 vs the Stars). In 40 games, Hamonic has 2 goals and 6 assists.
If there are any positives in Johnny Boychuk being out 4-6 weeks is that one of the those is All-Star week where the Isles have 7 days off.
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19