You can stop hoping and guessing and start worrying: Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was officially declared out for the remainer of the regular season today with a lower body injury sustained in last night's win over Columbus.
Hamonic left the game after a collision with Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell, in which Hartnell's leg came into contact with Hamonic's as the later was clearing the puck out of the Islanders' zone. The nature and intent of the hit probably depends on your feelings towards Hartnell, an league-wide agitator and longtime Islanders nemesis. Or it gives you a sick feeling of deja vu because it's eerily similar to an injury Hamonic suffered to his other knee last year at around this same time of the season.
Hamonic injury pic.twitter.com/OGy9Rgsnhe— connor (@ConIsles) March 31, 2016
Today, word came down from coach Jack Capuano about the extent of the injury and how long Hamonic will remain out. Newsday's Laura Albanese (filling in for Arthur Staple), also notes a line-up change to expect for the Islanders next game tomorrow afternoon versus the Penguins.
Capuano said he isn't certain if Hamonic will miss playoffs, but clearly this is fairly serious. #isles— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) April 1, 2016
Zidlicky will be back Saturday against Pittsburgh. #isles— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) April 1, 2016
Cappy says he has to evaluate defensive pairings in light of Hamonic injury but prefers experience. Pulock is fine.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) April 1, 2016
Hamonic's absence over the final six games of the Islanders season will be a difficult one for the team to overcome. He averages 20 minutes a game, has five goals and 16 assists this season, and has been one of the Islanders' most reliable defenders, even more so than usual. Oh, and there's that whole trade request and Masterton nomination, but those aren't important right now.
Presently, the Islanders' final games contain exactly zero cakewalks outside of maybe Buffalo. They host Pittsburgh tomorrow with a playoff clinching possibility and maybe second place (and home ice advantage) on the line. Then it's Tampa Bay, Washington, the Rangers (oy), the Sabres and finally Philadelphia (double oy) in the final game of the season, which is a make-up from a postponement back in January.
Losing Hamonic isn't optimal by any stretch of the imagination, but the Islanders can't use it as an excuse to drop any of these and jeopardize their playoff lives and/or seeding. Capuano sounds like he'll be rotating Marek Zidlicky (out since March 6th), Brain Strait and rookie Ryan Pulock in and out of the line-up going forward. Also, Adam Pelech, who's been out with a mystery injury for two months just recently began skating again, so maybe he re-enters the mix.
"Right now, Zidlicky will probably go in," Capuano said. "He's in real good condition, he's been skating. Obviously it's tough coming back in against a team like Pittsburgh, but he's an experienced guy and that's the decision we made as a staff to play our experienced here in these games because they've been in these situations before. Zidlicky has been in plenty of these games."
With Jaroslav Halak aready down for about another month and Mikhail Grabovski apparently not close to returning, someone is going to have to fill some big shoes for the next two weeks, if not more.
At least one guy is optimistic.
"Obviously not good news but it’s not terrible because he could – should – be back for playoffs." - Boychuk on Hamonic.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) April 1, 2016