Cage forces adjustment for Islanders' Hamonic

Travis Hamonic reacts to a play during a

Travis Hamonic reacts to a play during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Dec. 8, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic offered a view through the metal cage on his helmet. "You want to experience for yourself?"

Optics are something of an issue for anyone inside the grid pattern of that cage, which Hamonic has been forced to wear since returning from nose surgery two weeks ago.

The real experience, of course, was being struck on the proboscisby Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's slap shot Feb. 4.

The timing is never good for such an event. But, he reasoned, "It could have been a lot worse."

Hamonic had been outfitted with the clear eye shield players routinely wear, but the puck found its way under the shield, missing Hamonic's right eye by roughly an inch.

"I was thankful," he said. "I feel maybe God had something to do with turning my head at the last second. There's no telling what can happen when you take a puck in the eye.

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"I knew something was wrong right away. Your head starts to ring and your face goes numb. I was all right until I saw how much blood I was losing and I was panicking."

Only 21 and in his second NHL season, Hamonic has developed into one of the most reliable Islanders; his plus-7 rating is the highest on a team clinging to diminishing playoff possibilities as it faces a third consecutive game against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum Saturday night.

He missed three weeks and nine games before returning Feb. 24, his head since then encased in the same sort of cage he wore for four weeks when a slap shot broke his jaw three years ago.

A big adjustment? "Big? No," Hamonic said. "Frustrating at times. Every once in a while, when the puck's coming over to you quick or you get a puck in your feet, you can't really see it too well. Every now and then, I miss a pass, and I like to blame it on the cage."

It's just that there is no more time to dwell on his own situation than there is on recent losses.

"You take a couple of minutes to evaluate after a game,'' he said. "Then you've got to let it go and prepare for the next one."

Notes & quotes: Forward Matt Martin, forced out of the third period of Thursday's game against the Devils because of illness, didn't practice Friday and likely won't be available Saturday. Forward P.A. Parenteau (left hand bruise) was limited in practice but is expected to play.

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