ISLANDERS (47-28-7) at CAPITALS (45-26-11)
TV: USA, TVA Sports, SN, CSN-DC, MSG+, CSN-DC
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- With New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury, defenseman Johnny Boychuk had a simple message ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"With our group, we have a lot of guys that are NHL-ready or have played in the NHL, so it's time for guys to step up," Boychuk said. "They don't need to try to fill the void, but just try to play their game and try to help the team win any way possible."
Hamonic was injured in the Islanders' penultimate game of the regular season after taking a hip check from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi. The 24-year-old led the Islanders with an average of 21:47 of ice time per game and had career highs with five goals and 33 points in 71 games.
Hamonic's absence means Calvin de Haan is expected to make his postseason debut Wednesday in Game 1 of the Islanders' Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals.
"I’m looking forward to it," said de Haan, one of three Islanders expected to make their NHL postseason debuts, along with forwards Anders Lee and Ryan Strome. "It's going to be exciting. The atmosphere is going to be good. It's going to be intense.
"You try to treat it like another hockey game. At the end of the day, it really is. Yes, the stakes are higher, but it's not going to change how we're going to play."
De Haan, 23, had one goal and 12 points in 65 games this season but was a healthy scratch for six straight games from March 28–April 10. De Haan returned to the lineup for the regular season finale with Hamonic sidelined.
"It wasn't my decision on who was going to be in the lineup, but I had to respect the coaches decision on who they think is going to give the team the best chance to win," de Haan said.
"So if I'm in tonight, it's going to be a good opportunity for me and the rest of the 'D' core and the team as well. We’re looking forward to it."
De Haan is expected to skate alongside Brian Strait on New York's second defensive pairing. Hamonic was used in a shutdown role against Capitals leading scorer Alex Ovechkin during the regular season, but Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he isn't putting too much stock into line matching.
"We got 22 wins on the road, so I don’t concern myself too much with matchups," Capuano said.
"It's not really a concern for me because over the last couple of years we've had a pretty good road record and we really don't get caught up in a lot of that stuff because we want to make sure that the flow of the game is the way we want it to be. But we will make necessary adjustments or match a few defensemen if we feel it’s appropriate."
The Capitals, who practiced in Arlington, Va., are in the playoffs after not qualifying last season.
"It’s been a long time since [we’ve] been in this position, almost [two years], so it’s nice to be back," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin has 31 goals in 58 career playoff games and leads the League in career playoff goals per game.
"Everybody is focusing right now," Ovechkin said. "The excitement is there. The first game is always going to be too much excitement, too much energy."
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has played in 21 playoff games, all of them in series that lasted seven games.
Holtby will be starting in goal, with former teammate Jaroslav Halak in net for the Islanders.
"It's another game tonight," Holtby said. "We're focused on what we have to do to be successful. We've prepared as best we can now, and it's on us to be mentally prepared."
Capitals coach Barry Trotz wouldn't give away potential on-ice matchups but hinted that forwards Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle would be utilized as a checking line.
Here are the projected lineups:
Nikolay Kulemin – John Tavares – Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen – Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Michael Grabner
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan – Brian Strait
Thomas Hickey – Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton, Matt Donovan, Griffin Reinhart, Tyler Kennedy
Injured: Mikhail Grabovski (upper-body), Travis Hamonic (undisclosed)
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Joel Ward
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Jay Beagle
Curtis Glencross – Michael Latta – Jason Chimera
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Matt Niskanen – Karl Alzner
Mike Green – Tim Gleason
Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson
Injured: Dmitry Orlov
Status report: Hamonic did not travel with the Islanders. … Wilson skated for the second day in a row but Trotz confirmed that he would not play in Game 1. Wilson was injured April 5 after blocking a shot in Washington’s 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Fehr, who missed the past three games with an upper-body injury and Beagle, who missed the past 14 games with an upper-body injury, will each be in the lineup.
Who's hot: Tavares led the Islanders in scoring with 38 goals and finished with nine points in his past five games… Ovechkin scored four goals against the Islanders during their regular season series… Backstrom had six points against the Islanders in the regular season.