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Islanders reviewing options if Visnovsky can't play

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Less than 24 hours after the New York Islanders failed to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, they were trying to figure out how to replace another veteran defenseman.

The Islanders could be without Lubomir Visnovsky for Game 5 at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC). Visnovsky was hit hard behind the Islanders net by Capitals forward Tom Wilson and did not return to the 2-1 overtime loss.

The Islanders played the first four games of the series without veteran defenseman Travis Hamonic because of an undisclosed injury.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano did not have an update on Visnovsky's condition when he spoke with reporters Wednesday morning but was hoping to know more later in the day. He said he did not know if Visnovsky would be able to make the trip to Washington.

In the Islanders dressing room, the players were still upset.

"The puck wasn't even close to where [Visnovsky] was," captain John Tavares said. "It's just a complete target of a defenseless player."

Wilson received a minor penalty for charging for the hit, which occurred at 5:54 of the second period.

Perhaps the biggest issue if Visnovsky is unable to play is the Islanders' already-struggling power play. They went 0-for-4 Tuesday and are 0-for-10 in the series.

The most likely options to replace Visnovsky are Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinhart, but they are left-handed shooters and the Islanders were using five lefties without Hamonic.

So, might the Islanders considering playing Ryan Pulock, their first-round pick (No. 15) at the 2013 NHL Draft? Pulock would provide them with another right-handed shot who can skate on the power play; he has a strong slap shot from the point.

"It's a good conversation piece for sure," Capuano said of the 20-year-old, who had 17 goals in 54 games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League this season. "I don't know if we would do it the next game quite honestly, but having the big shot, having the 16 goals or whatever he had down there, we're going to have to talk about it.

"It's a good question, but we feel like we still got the guys on the power play, our veteran guys, that can shoot pucks. For whatever reason we just kept the puck to the outside [Tuesday]. We created 2-on-1s, we had presence, but we didn't get pucks to the net."

If Visnovsky can't play, Thomas Hickey will find himself with a new defense partner. Hickey also was upset about Wilson's hit but said the Islanders will have to move on if they hope to take a 3-2 series lead Thursday.

"I think [Visnovsky] has been playing his best hockey of the year lately," Hickey said. "If he can't go, it's upsetting and frustrating, but we're going to have to have guys step up, all of us. The way he's been able to bring the puck up the ice, the way he's been standing up at the blue line and keeping pucks in, he's been a big reason why we've played well. If he can't go, we've all got to pull some extra weight."

Capuano did not have an update on Hamonic's status. Hamonic was at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday but did not participate in the optional skate. The Islanders are trying to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 1993.

"It's a big challenge, there's no question," Capuano said. "You win hockey games, you build teams obviously from your net out. I think our defense have done a great job this year, but if Visnovsky and Hamonic are both out, they're big holes to fill. Who are we kidding? They're two of our best guys back there.

"It's a chance and an opportunity for other guys to come in and step up. This happens as you move forward to try to reach your goal to win a Stanley Cup, whether it's on defense or up front. Other guys can try to come in and fill a void. We've got other guys that have been practicing pretty hard that can get in there and hopefully do the job for us."

Tavares said, "It is what it is. You can't control that. We have to go out there with whoever's playing tomorrow to go out there and do the job. It's an opportunity for somebody."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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