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Islanders' Hamonic healthy, laments missing playoffs

by Brian Compton

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The moment New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi in the second-to-last game of the 2014-15 regular season, he knew something was wrong.

"I hadn't felt anything like that before," Hamonic said.

Hamonic sustained a Grade 3 torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee on the play and was forced to miss the Islanders' first-round series against the Washington Capitals in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders lost the physical series in seven games.

Hamonic was all smiles Friday, when the Islanders opened training camp. The 25-year-old said he trained normally during the offseason and knows he'll be expected to play a big role on the Islanders' blue line when they open the season Oct. 9 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"The knee's felt great all summer. I haven't had any issues," said Hamonic, who had five goals, 28 assists and 85 penalty minutes in 71 games last season. "Nice to get the first skate out of the way. It was a good pace out there. I don't feel it all, so I'm happy."

It's a nice change for Hamonic after he could do nothing but watch the Islanders fall one goal short of advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. He knows the style played in that series was right up his alley.

"It [stunk]," said Hamonic, who said he was hoping to skate the day after the Game 7 loss had the Islanders advanced. "Whatever expletives you want to put on there, it wasn't easy by any means. It was tough just not being around the guys as much as I would have liked. You don't want to be a distraction. You battle all year and we're a pretty close group in here. Watching the playoffs and watching how physical it is, that certainly suits the style of play that I have.

"The thing that probably [stunk] the most was just not being with the guys, whether it was winning or losing. That was difficult. But it's a new year, a new chapter and I'm healthy and ready to contribute in any way that's asked."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano was pleased to see one of his top defensemen back on the ice Friday, when the Islanders began preparing for what promises to be a heated race in the Metropolitan Division all season. But Capuano couldn't help but reflect on what might have been last season had Hamonic been able to play against the Capitals.

"Just talking to him throughout the summer, I think if we could have went another round, there was a good chance that he could have started skating with us," Capuano said. "When you've got a competitive guy like that, one of our leaders of our hockey team, it was tough.

"There's no excuses, but he was a big part of our team."

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