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Hamonic back for Islanders in Game 1

New York defenseman returns against Panthers after missing six games with knee injury

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

Game 1: ISLANDERS at PANTHERS

Eastern Conference First Round

TV: 8 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, FS-F, MSG+

SUNRISE, Fla. - New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic will be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Hamonic will play for the first time since injuring his knee against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 31. He was sidelined last year when the Islanders lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after sustaining a late-season knee injury.

"Last year is last year; it was tough not being able to play and watching the guys battle," Hamonic said. "This year as a group we've pushed hard and we're ready for the challenge in the playoffs. I'm excited just to be a part of it, and just try to go out there and do my job and fit in with the guys and hopefully have some success as a team. I think that we're confident."

Coach Jack Capuano said Hamonic has been ready for a couple of days, but his status for Game 1 wasn't announced until Thursday. He added there would be no restrictions on how much he'll use Hamonic, who leads the Islanders in average ice time at 23:47.

"I'm not thinking about saving minutes for Game 2," Capuano said. "I know Travis hasn't played in some time, but he's going to be a guy that crunches a lot of minutes along with [Nick] Leddy and a few of our other guys. This is what you train all year for."

Capuano also said rookie forward Alan Quine will be in the starting lineup. Quine played in his first two NHL games last weekend when the Islanders faced the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's been awesome," said Quine, who had to change on a chair in the middle of the Islanders dressing room because of a surplus of players. "It was a pretty big whirlwind going from being in Bridgeport and two games to here. I'm just real excited."

As expected, defenseman Erik Gudbranson will play for the Panthers after missing the final three games regular-season games with a lower-body injury.

Gudbranson also missed 18 of the Panthers' final 31 games because of various injuries.

"It was kind of a tough second half for a little bit for me, some unfortunate bounces and stuff I had to deal with," Gudbranson said. "Right now I feel good. I'm excited to play. It's the playoffs and we're very excited to get out there."

The Islanders are looking for their first playoff series victory since 1993, while the Panthers are looking for their first since 1996.

The Panthers won two of three games against the Islanders this season, including a 5-1 victory at Barclays Center on Dec. 15 that started their record 12-game winning streak. 

Florida won 3-2 in a shootout at BB&T Center on Nov. 27; New York won 3-2 at Barclays Center on March 14. Florida led 2-0 in the third period in each of those games.

Here are the projected lineups:

ISLANDERS 

Frans Nielsen - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Nikolay Kulemin - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Shane Prince - Alan Quine - Ryan Strome  

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck  

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock  

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube  
 
Injured: Anders Lee (broken fibula), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Brian Strait (upper body), Jaroslav Halak (lower body) 
 
Scratched: Marek Zidlicky, Adam Pelech, Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Christopher Gibson

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jiri Hudler - Rocco Grimaldi - Teddy Purcell

Garrett Wilson - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Jakub Kindl - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Vincent Trocheck (foot), Dave Bolland (lower body), Willie Mitchell (concussion), Steven Kampfer (lower body)

Scratched: Quinton Howden, Greg McKegg, Michael Matheson

Status report: Berube will serve as the backup to Greiss after sitting out the final five games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. … Okposo's wife, Danielle, gave birth to their second child Monday, making for a busy week for the right wing. "My wife, she's been great about it," Okposo said. "She sent me home from the hospital and said, 'You've got to go home and get some rest.' I was there for about 36 minutes and I went home and I just crashed for about six hours. And then back to practice and back there for the whole day. It's been a long few days, but I'm excited and I'm ready to play." … Kampfer, who is out with a lower-body injury, took to the ice toward the latter stages of the morning skate. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said he was day-to-day. … Jagr, 44, showed his sense of humor when told by a New York reporter he's one player the Islanders have circled as needing to contain. "I don't think they should look at me," Jagr said. "I'm 50 years old. I can't even skate."

Who's hot: Tavares had seven goals and seven assists in his past 10 regular-season games. … Okposo had two goals and seven assists in his final eight regular-season games. … Ekblad had a goal and six assists in the final six games. … Barkov ended the regular season on a NHL career-high nine-game point streak (five goals, eight assists).

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