Travis Hamonic put on his Islanders jersey, laced up his skates and glided onto the ice Friday afternoon on photo day, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever do it again.
The Islanders were dealt a crushing blow Thursday night when Hamonic suffered a knee-on-knee collision with the Blue Jackets’ Scott Hartnell in the first period, crumpled onto the ice and didn’t return. After taking part in photo day Friday, the defenseman didn’t practice and was ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a lower-body injury, according to coach Jack Capuano.
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And if things don’t look good after that, it very well could be the second year in a row that Hamonic, 25, misses the playoffs with a knee injury.
Last year, he had a Grade 3 — the most serious — tear of the MCL in his left knee. Though the problem hasn’t been specified, his right knee seems to have been injured this time.
Hamonic has four more years on his contract, but previously asked to be traded to be closer to his family in Winnipeg. The Islanders have been receptive to the idea, but it’s still too early to tell how much the back-to-back knee injuries will affect his trade value.
“It’s going to keep him out for an extended period of time and we know he’s not going to play the remainder of the season,” Capuano said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea at some point . . . Losing 3 [Hamonic’s uniform number] is a big loss for our hockey team. No question about it.”
Capuano said he still hasn’t solidified his new defensive pairings but added that Marek Zidlicky, who missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, will get the call Saturday against Pittsburgh. Hamonic will be sorely missed against a revived Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in a key Metropolitan Division matchup. The Isles are in fourth place, three points behind the Penguins and two points behind the Rangers, with a game in hand on each.
The injury is further exacerbated by goalie Jaroslav Halak’s absence (he isn’t expected to return from his March 8 injury until after the regular season).
The Islanders, though, appear to be optimistic that Hamonic will be back by the playoffs.
“In between the first and second period, I asked [Hamonic] how it was and how he is and he said, ‘Well, I’ll find out [Friday],’ ” Johnny Boychuk said. “Obviously not good news, but it’s not terrible because he could — should — be back for playoffs.”
Hamonic has five goals and 16 assists in an average of 23:49 ice time this season, and though he’s had something of a drop-off from last season, the Isles recognize his value. Before the injury, he hadn’t played less than 20 minutes in any game this season, and the Islanders are 15-4 in regulation games in which he plays more than 25.
If there’s any bright side for the Islanders, it’s that this will give them the opportunity to test some of their young guns, particularly Ryan Pulock, though Scott Mayfield certainly fits into that category. Capuano said Pulock will see more playing time but that he still prefers the experience of the 39-year-old Zidlicky.
“It’s always tough,” John Tavares said. “You know how much [Hamonic] wants to be part of the stretch here and obviously trying to get into the playoffs, so we obviously hope that he’ll be back soon. Everyone’s just got to step up and work through the void. It’s hard to replace a guy like him, but certainly we’ve got guys that are very capable of playing more minutes and expanding their role.”