Islanders, Flames hope to welcome back injured D-men

NHL Hockey

Two key NHL defensemen with injuries have been spotted skating and could be in the lineup Thursday when the New York Islanders visit the Calgary Flames.

Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic and Islanders defender Johnny Boychuk are both game-day decisions for their teams.

Hamonic appears the most likely to fit back into his team’s lineup. After missing 14 games with an upper-body injury, he fully participated in practice Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I feel good, I feel healthy,” Hamonic said. “I’m certainly eager to get back in there.

“I’ve had a good couple of practices and I’ve been skating quite a bit on my own, as well, when the team was gone. So I feel up to speed and ready to go when they want to put me in.”

Flames captain and fellow defenseman Marc Giordano is looking forward to getting Hamonic back, especially with another defender’s status now in question. Noah Hanifin left Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period with an upper-body injury.

“Hammer plays top minutes,” Giordano said. “His strength is on the penalty kill, defending, playing that gritty style. He’s a guy who plays in all situations. When we get him back, it’s going to be a big boost.”

Just Boychuk’s presence on the trip was enough for buoyed spirits with the Islanders. The 36-year-old needed 90 stitches and plastic surgery to his left eyelid after being cut by the skate blade of Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen on March 3.

“It’s nice having him around the room,” Mathew Barzal said. “After something like that, sometimes a guy might take some time off and hang out at home, but he was at the rink the next day having some laughs and a big smile on his face. That’s kind of Johnny and we love having him around the room.”

Boychuk wasn’t wearing any facial protection when he skated with his team earlier this week. Coach Barry Trotz lists him as day to day.

“It’s going to come to Johnny’s decision,” Trotz said. “You look at the job the plastic surgeon did on his eyes, absolutely fantastic. When he feels he’s got full sight and he’s ready to play and confident, he’ll make that decision.”

Both teams are coming off losses. The Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) extended their losing streak to seven games with a 5-4 shootout loss against the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday. The Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) battled back from 3-0 to tie the Golden Knights in the third, only to give up the game-winner with 1:10 left.

Brock Nelson, who had a pair of goals for the Islanders against the Canucks, looked on the bright side, even though his team gave up a 1-0 lead. They fought back to tie the game three times.

“I thought we did a pretty good job a couple times battling back,” said Nelson. “We need that right now, especially the way things are going for us. It seems like we’re close but we’ve just got to find that puck or that play to kind of get us over the hump and turn it around.”

The Flames are also looking at the positives.

“We did battle back,” said Andrew Mangiapane, who had an assist against the Golden Knights. “We’ve got to start better off in the first. That’s a big problem that we need to fix. Other than that, I thought we played a pretty solid game.”

–Field Level Media

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