The Islanders will have their hammer back in the toolbox tonight.
Travis Hamonic, the Islanders’ ice-time leader (23:49 per game) and shutdown defenseman, will be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. It’s a big boost for the Islanders, who thought they had potentially lost Hamonic long-term when he suffered a lower-body injury on March 31 that kept him out for the rest of the regular season.
“It’s huge for us,” John Tavares said. “He obviously plays a major role in all situations and it’s hard to replace a guy like that.”
Hamonic suffered a season-ending knee injury last season and his brand of physicality, roughness and size (6-2, 205 pounds) was greatly missed in what became a war of attrition against the Washington Capitals. The Islanders are glad to have him back as they get set to face a Panthers team with a sizable forward corps.
“Any time you add a player like that it’s a huge boost to your lineup,” Kyle Okposo said on Tuesday. “He’s a great player and we’re a better team when he’s on the ice.”
The Islanders are also welcoming goaltender Jean-Francois Berube back from injury to back up Thomas Greiss on Thursday night. Berube took over the primary backup duties after Jaroslav Halak’s injury on March 8, but was injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 2. Berube’s return sends Christopher Gibson up to the press box.
As for the Islanders’ Game 1 lineup, Alan Quine, Shane Prince and Ryan Pulock are all in and are all making their NHL playoff debuts. Quine, who made his regular-season debut on April 9 against the Buffalo Sabres, did enough to impress the Islanders’ coaching staff in his first two NHL games to not only warrant the call-up, but also the start.
“He’s quick, he accelerates well, he shoots the puck well and he’s going to get an opportunity in Game 1,” coach Jack Capuano said of Quine. “Alan has played really well down the middle. Losing Mikhail Grabovski, not having him back is tough. At the same time, moving Ryan Strome to the wing gives Quine an opportunity up the middle and give us some good minutes.”
Quine practiced between Strome and Prince on Tuesday and Wednesday and it appears Capuano is sticking with the speedy trio on Thursday night.
Pulock will also make his postseason debut, though Capuano did not reveal his defensive pairings.
ISLANDERS PROJECTED LINES:
Kyle Okposo – John Tavares – Frans Nielsen
Nikolay Kulemin – Brock Nelson – Josh Bailey
Shane Prince – Alan Quine – Ryan Strome
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck