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Boychuk expects Islanders to go on playoff run

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- Johnny Boychuk admits he was pleasantly surprised with his first season with the New York Islanders.

The veteran defenseman wasn't sure what to expect after being traded to the Islanders from the Boston Bruins on Oct. 4, six days before the 2014-2015 NHL season began.

Boychuk, 31, was so pleased by his experience with the Islanders, he agreed to a seven-year contract extension reportedly worth $42 million on March 12, opting not to test free agency in the summer.

"I had no idea what it was going to be like when I first got there," Boychuk said this week after attending Perry Pearn's 3-on-3 Hockey Camp in Edmonton. "I knew when I got traded, I was going to a younger team on [Long Island]. You look at it, and I'm one of the oldest guys on the team, I guess. I went there, and they used me a lot. It was a positive environment, and the coaches were great. Even though we had a lot of youth there, they worked extremely hard and they build into a good, strong, physical team."

The Islanders had a strong regular season, finishing third in the Metropolitan Division and qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in 10 seasons. Boychuk and defenseman Nick Leddy, also acquired Oct. 4, in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, were integral parts of that success.

New York lost in seven games to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round, but Boychuk believes the young Islanders learned from it.

"We have a good, young team and we have the same team this year that we had last year and we want to build off that experience we had," Boychuk said. "Unfortunately, the season was shorter than we expected, but now we're moving into the Barclays Center and it'll be different. I think it'll be a transition in the first couple of weeks, and we'll see how everything it going to be, but it's exciting."

The Islanders, who begin a new era in Brooklyn this season after playing 43 years at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., hope to capitalize on the excitement generated by their success last season.

Boychuk hasn't been inside Barclays Center yet but is looking forward to playing in his new home arena.

"It'll be different, but we have the same team and we're all pretty excited to get back at it," Boychuk said. "The fans were great last season. I remember, usually when we would go to Long Island when I was with Boston, there were more of our fans there. But right from the beginning of the season, we had a lot of fans coming back, and they were excited about hockey again, and it was good to see that. It was good to see how loud they were and how passionate they were.

"It was something I didn't think I would see, because every time I would go there before, it would be mostly Boston fans. But seeing how many fans came out and supported us, it was unbelievable. It's going to be interesting to see what's going to happen in Brooklyn."

Boychuk believes the Islanders are ready to take the next step and go on an extended postseason run. They have not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since 1993.

"A lot of my re-signing with the Islanders had to do with how young we were and how good we are," Boychuk said. "You could see the good thing they are building there and how good we're going to be for a long time because of how young we are. It's just a good situation to be in."

Boychuk scored nine goals and had 26 assists in 72 regular-season games last season, then had two assists in the seven-game series against the Capitals.

Boychuk said expectations will be higher for the Islanders this season.

"Definitely, they have to be," he said. "They have to be higher every year, regardless if you win or lose, expectations always have to be higher. We're a good team, from the previous years to last year, we've been able to make a big jump. We've been able to turn things around and now we are winning, and it's fun to be a part of."

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