It's not the ideal way for the Islanders to start off 2016, but the team has placed Johnny Boychuk on injured reserve with an upper body injury. A collision with the boards in Buffalo last night had the defenseman favoring his left shoulder as he exited the game.
With a little less than five minutes to go in the Islanders 2-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday, Boychuk and Buffalo's Jack Eichel raced for a puck into the Islanders' zone. As Eichel turned away, Boychuk went hard into the end boards and lay on the ice for a few seconds holding his shoulder. He was helped off by trainers and teammates and did not return.
After the game, Jack Capuano said it wasn't a head or neck injury (which is good), and that Boychuk would be "day-to-day." The Islanders haven't set an ETA yet, and are waiting a full evaluation.
#Isles Transaction: Johnny Boychuk placed on the team's IR list (upper body). Time frame not released until he sees team doctors next week.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 1, 2016
Though his possession numbers have dipped from last season, Boychuk still averages 21 minutes a night for the Islanders, including a lot of time on the team's penalty kill, which has been among the best in the NHL this season.
Pelech recall raises questions
The team recalled defenseman Adam Pelech from Bridgeport following the Boychuk announcement. This is Pelech's second stint with the Islanders this season; he was scoreless in two road games in November, a win in Anaheim on the 13th and a loss at Montreal on the 22nd. The 2012 third round pick has two goals and four assists in 26 AHL games this season.
The Islanders had already been carrying an extra defenseman in fan un-favorite and professional extra defenseman Brian Strait. Marek Zidlicky normally mans the third pairing with Thomas Hickey, but rarely plays in back-to-back situations.
With consecutive games this weekend - in Pittsburgh on Saturday and home to Dallas on Sunday - it's likely Strait spells Zidlicky for one game, and Pelech spends the weekend in the press box(es). The Islanders are then off until Thursday's game against Washington.
Fans hoping for a look at Bridgeport defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose defensive game has progressed in his second pro season according to coach Brent Thompson, will have to wait. Pulock is fourth on the Sound Tigers in scoring and could be a boost to the Islanders hit-and-miss power play.
But it doesn't look like the team thinks his time is now. Or, with the Sound Tigers having games the next three nights in a row, they could prefer to have Pulock playing rather than sitting.
tl;dr we're gonna see Strait soon so deal with it.
Updates via Arthur Staple
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 (@StapeNewsday) January 1, 2016
Capuano says BPT coach Brent Thompson gave the nod to Pelech, but "if Johnny is out long term you could definitely see some other guys."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 1, 2016
Capuano wouldn't reveal the new D alignment. "It's going to be a little bit of an experiment going forward here." #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 1, 2016