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Islanders put Hamonic on IR; Nabokov likely to start

by Jon Lane

NEW YORK -- One day after the New York Islanders welcomed back defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, they learned they will remain without another defensive regular, Travis Hamonic.

Hamonic was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, retroactive to Jan. 12, with a concussion, the same ailment that sidelined Visnovsky for more than three months.

"He's starting to progress a little bit and is still not feeling well," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Tuesday after his team practiced at Yankee Stadium in preparation for the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2). "It's a little bit of a process for him and we'll just take it as it goes. For me, just talking to our doctors and our trainers, you can't really control what you can't control. It's a situation with him that we have to make sure he's 100 percent before we decide to move forward with him."

Matt Donovan, sent down Monday to make room for Visnovsky, was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and could replace Matt Carkner opposite Visnovsky on Wednesday night. Capuano said following practice that he has yet to finalize who will play against the Rangers.

"The toughest thing for me about this game is the lineup, because we have a close-knit group on our hockey club and not everybody is going to be able to participate," Capuano said.

Capuano is also undecided who will be in goal, but it appears likely that Evgeni Nabokov will start for first time since a quad injury shut him down on Jan. 6. Nabokov relieved Kevin Poulin in the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday.

Nabokov practiced Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

"I believe that he's right where he needs to be to get in there," Capuano said. "If we have the conversation later today with everybody, and he feels he can help our hockey team and he's 100 percent, there's a good chance."

Nabokov is 9-8-5 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 25 games, and went 4-3-2 starting 10 of 11 games before the quad injury. He made 21 saves in a 5-3 win against the Rangers on Dec. 20 at Madison Square Garden.

"You want to be in that type of [atmosphere], it's a big stage," Nabokov said. "Any time there's a big game and a big atmosphere, you want to get in. This is no different. Everybody is talking about atmosphere, but it's still two points and that's the most important part. We have to concentrate on two points."

The Islanders, as a whole, saved the business of winning for Wednesday night, choosing to focus on the family skate following practice and to experience the unique environment that every player except Thomas Vanek will experience for the first time. Vanek skated for the Buffalo Sabres in the first Winter Classic, played at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008, and has served as a mentor on what to expect dealing with the elements and the festive surroundings.

"The best part was walking out after warmups with fireworks going off and 70,000-80,000 crazy [fans cheering]," Vanek said. "It's a long day with the preparation and the hoopla all around, but the day goes by fast and who knows if it's ever going to happen again. I enjoyed my first one and I'm certainly taking this one in. I think the venue and everything has been perfect so far."

The theme of the day was a spirited practice and time with loved ones during the family skate, which struck a chord with John Tavares. The Islanders' captain skated with his father Joe and filmed the experience with his cell phone.

"He was the first one who put me on skates, and I still remember that day," Tavares said. "I remember the last day he skated. It was a father-son game with the (bantam) Toronto Marlies. It's been a while so I told him it'd be nice to see him come back out and enjoy the experience with me.

"It's one of the highlights for sure. Playing outside alone and you get the venue and this rivalry; it's right up there. The excitement is building. This will be right up there with some of the memories I've had in my whole life playing hockey."


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