WASHINGTON - Griffin Reinhart made his NHL playoff debut Thursday night, getting the nod over fellow rookie Ryan Pulock.
Pulock might not have to wait long to get his chance, though. Reinhart played in place of injured Lubomir Visnovsky and the Isles lost another regular defenseman, Calvin de Haan, to a third-period injury after a hit by the Capitals' Troy Brouwer. That further depleted an already worn-down defense corps that will try to stave off elimination Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
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Reinhart may not have wanted his NHL playoff debut to come at the expense of an injured teammate, but he still was ready to embrace his chance in Game 5. "Ever since I came up here, I've been waiting for this," he said after the Islanders' morning skate, when he likely knew he would be taking Visnovsky's spot even though Jack Capuano wouldn't reveal his choice.
Reinhart and Pulock, who were teammates in Bridgeport for the vast majority of this season, took warm-ups before Game 5, but it was Reinhart who jumped in. The Isles' 2012 first-round pick hadn't played an NHL game since Dec. 15, the last of his eight regular-season games for the Isles, but there were few options for Capuano.
Travis Hamonic remained on Long Island with a suspected left knee injury. Visnovsky was home, too, dealing with a suspected concussion from Tom Wilson's controversial hit in the second period of Game 4. So Reinhart got the call to pair with Thomas Hickey.
His first few shifts were very much a "welcome to the playoffs" scenario: With the last option to change lines at home, the Caps tried to get Alex Ovechkin on against him as much as they could. Reinhart stepped up to slow Ovechkin down minutes into Game 5 and got a forearm shiver to the face for his trouble.
At least he had some experience to consult: He talked with his father by phone on Thursday. Paul Reinhart played in 82 playoff games in his 11-year career.
Said Griffin Reinhart: "It's another step up from the regular season, so it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."