The first Islanders practice in their future Long Island home base was a happy occasion. And not just for the promise of having what general manager Garth Snow called “the best practice facility in the league” when the Islanders move into Northwell Health Ice Center (formerly Twin Rinks) full time this summer.
Travis Hamonic returned to practice on Wednesday before a crowd of Long Island school kids, Islanders season-ticket holders, sponsors and even Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano at the facility in Eisenhower Park that Charles Wang purchased in October.
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Hamonic has been out for two weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot, suffered in the second period of the Isles’ Jan. 7 loss to the Caps. The crack in his foot has healed, which means it’s about pain tolerance at this point.
Which means you should bet on Hamonic playing Friday in Ottawa against the Senators. The 25-year-old defenseman played through the initial break for the third period of that Jan. 7 game before X-rays showed the fracture, so pain tolerance is not really an issue.
“Today it feels really good,” Hamonic said after the lengthy workout. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and then it’s up to the coaches.”
Hamonic’s return for the final three games before the All-Star break would be a significant addition for a battered Islanders blue line. Johnny Boychuk (shoulder) is out at least until February.
Rookie Adam Pelech, who filled in superbly during Boychuk’s and Hamonic’s absences, is still undergoing medical tests for what Jack Capuano called “a freak thing” that, according to a source, will almost certainly end the 21-year-old’s season.
“We had him ready for warm-ups [on Sunday] and all of a sudden there was a situation,” Capuano said of Pelech. “We’re hoping to get some answers soon.”
Hamonic credited Pelech for helping the Islanders go 2-1-1 since Hamonic was sidelined.
“He does a lot of those little things that maybe the average fan isn’t going to notice,” Hamonic said of Pelech. “He does so many of those little things that really kind of pushes the play and makes everyone around him better.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders plan to hold one more practice this season at Northwell Health Ice Center, with construction on offices, equipment and locker-room spaces to begin in the coming weeks. “It’s a feather in the cap of the organization to have a first-class facility like this,” Snow said. “We all still live on Long Island and this is home for us.”