PITTSBURGH -- Travis Hamonic left MTS Centre in his native Winnipeg in a walking boot. Where that leaves the Islanders' defense, beginning Tuesday night against the Penguins, is a giant question mark.
Hamonic suffered a sprained ankle in the third period of the Isles' 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets on Sunday night. It forced him to miss the final six minutes of regulation and the 1:59 of OT before Evander Kane knocked in the winner.
It appears that the defenseman avoided a serious sprain -- Jack Capuano said Hamonic will be evaluated Tuesday morning -- but it appears Hamonic will miss at least Tuesday's game against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins and possibly more.
"If he can't go, that's obviously a big part of our 'D' corps," said Andrew MacDonald, Hamonic's regular partner. The pair would have tried to match against Crosby or Evgeni Malkin Tuesday night. Now it might be MacDonald and Radek Martinek, the 11-year veteran who has yet to play a game this season after signing with the Islanders just before training camp.
"We have some pretty good depth here," MacDonald said. "Radek's played in all different situations in the past, so he'll know what to do when he's in there."
The Islanders have not been terribly balanced in their ice time among defensemen. MacDonald (27:26 per game), Mark Streit (25:13) and Hamonic (24:02) have logged the bulk of the minutes and Brian Strait (17:50) and Matt Carkner (13:09) have been used sparingly, along with Joe Finley and Thomas Hickey, who have split the role of sixth defenseman.
The defense corps also was not as balanced in its own zone as it would have liked through stretches of the three games thus far on this road trip. In the first period in Winnipeg, the Jets were screaming through the Isles' zone, hitting people and hopping on loose pucks with speed.
"There was a lot of standing in the 'D' zone, as opposed to attacking," MacDonald said. "They came with speed and we didn't do enough to disrupt them."
Notes & quotes:Coming off a 30-save outing, including some terrific stops on open Jets players, Evgeni Nabokov is likely to get the start in goal Tuesday night . . . Even though the top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson had six points Sunday, Capuano said he needs to see more from them. "Our other lines are going too well to break up right now," he said. "We need more out of those top guys." . . . Josh Bailey (knee) has been skating with team skills coordinator Bernie Cassell on Long Island and likely will be ready to come off suspension and practice with the team this week.