Islanders' top defense pair needs to make up for Brian Strait's absence
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KANATA, Ontario -- Perhaps the worst part of Monday's 7-0 loss to the Flyers was a different sort of loss. Brian Strait, who went from waiver-wire pickup to indispensable defenseman in a few short weeks, is almost certain to miss the remainder of the regular season after suffering a broken left ankle on a freakish play during the home rout.
Thomas Hickey subbed in Tuesday and veteran Radek Martinek came off injured reserve to take Strait's roster spot. But the onus for picking up the slack on defense -- Strait's plus-3 rating is the only positive number on the entire squad -- falls to the big-minute players who haven't been playing as well as usual.
"It's been really frustrating. We need to grind it out here," said Andrew MacDonald, who is averaging 25:19 per game but still has only one assist and a minus-9 rating. His regular defense partner, Travis Hamonic, and team ice-time leader Mark Streit are also both minus-9.
There have been some unusual plays that have hurt the pair -- Hamonic taking a high pass off the chest and the puck caroming into the net against the Hurricanes last week, and a pass sliding off MacDonald's skate right to Claude Giroux for the quick opening goal on Monday.
Said MacDonald: "You just don't dwell on it, because that can make things worse. We've talked, we've watched video with the coaches. It's time to step up and move on."
Left wing David Ullstrom was a healthy scratch last night, his second scratch in the last three games. Marty Reasoner, a healthy scratch the previous five, went back in and started the game centering Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo.