Of particular interest are the injuries, which will continue to draw our focus and fear until the puck drops.
Hamonic Still Out, Optimism Short
Travis Hamonic wasn't on the ice, and the team provided no update to media. His injury didn't look to good to start off with -- he was in immediate pain, immediately limped off while providing little weight on his leg, and the team provided nothing beyond "he'll be evaluated." But your sense starts to move toward "no chance," at least for the start of the series.
Given the caginess of the playoffs and the importance the Isles place on Hamonic in a matchup with the Capitals, you also wonder if the Isles wouldn't even come out and say it if he were out long-term.
Stephen Lorenzo of the Daily News wasn't optimistic, and offered reasoning:
@justinshea the heavy limp I saw a few days ago and a lack of optimism from Cap/players— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) April 13, 2015
Grabovski Practicing, Moving on Up as Cizikas Exits
On the other hand, Mikhail Grabovski was again practicing -- and without the "don't touch me" jersey. At first he was on the "extras" line, but then moved up when Casey Cizikas left the ice during practice.
#Isles practice lines: 86-91-18, 12-51-21, 27-29-40/26, 17-53-15, 36-84-13. Reinhart on, Hamonic not.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) April 13, 2015
Cizikas just went off, Grabovski takes his spot.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) April 13, 2015
Also of note: Michael Grabner and Tyler Kennedy sharing a spot there.
As Arthur Staple reported Sunday night, the Islanders recalled Griffin Reinhart from AHL Bridgeport. In Hamonic's absence, that balances out the D pairings for practice purposes, but it sounds like he too is in the extras. Staple reported he was paired with Matt Donovan on the fourth pairing.
It's just day two of three gruelingly long (for fans) off days, but it sure looks like the Isles will be dressing the same six defensemen as the season finale.
Boychuk: Beware of Tanks
Johnny Boychuk has endeared himself to fans and players all season for his on-ice performance, as well as for his tension-relieving upbeat off-ice approach. That doesn't change now that the playoffs have begun for the playoff-tested blueliner:
#Isles Boychuk on Ovechkin: "He's a tank... You know you have to look around and see where he is. You don't want to get run over by a tank."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) April 13, 2015
Separating Men from Boys
Meanwhile, to get you frightened about lineup choices -- or maybe to frighten youngsters about the playoffs -- Jack Capuano had the coach's cliche book in top form. From Lorenzo:
#Isles Capuano on young guys: "You could be in the opening lineup Game 1, (but) that doesn’t mean you’ll be in Game 2."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) April 13, 2015
#Isles Capuano: "You don’t have time right now, you can’t take short cuts. This is a different game, this is a man’s game."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) April 13, 2015
It may be nothing. It may be the usual motivational speechmaking. Whatever it is, it shall fuel fearful 500-comment threads around here until the games begin and [your pet player goes here] is [dressed/scratched/mysteriously injured].
Karate Kid Waxes On, Waxes Poetic
Speaking of boys...
One of the fun outcomes of the Islanders doing so well, in the final season at Nassau Coliseum, is all the personalities that have been brought out of the woodwork as longtime fans and/or participants in the memories.
Ralph Macchio is no johnny-come-lately or bandwagon fan, but now many more people realize who his hometown team is. He is still the man who will fight for your honor.
Look for that on NHL Network, which is also airing that enticing Fort Neverlose feature on Tuesday, April 14.
For the JIMs
Apparently it's baseball season now too. It was opening day for baseball's orange and blue, the Mets. But attention is appropriately divided.
A Let's Go Islanders chat just broke out briefly at Citi Field.— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 13, 2015