Travis Hamonic willing to step up as Islanders leader

Travis Hamonic skates against the Detroit Red Wings Travis Hamonic skates against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period of a game at Nassau Coliseum. (Nov. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Travis Hamonic had a fairly lousy week.

His Islanders are struggling to the end of a dismal season, having coughed up two straight two-goal leads as they entered Monday night's game with the Canucks here. Hamonic also saw his closest friend on the team, Andrew MacDonald, dealt to the Flyers a week ago.

Hamonic got the alternate captain's "A" that MacDonald wore this season, but that's small consolation for his team, which is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third time in his four NHL seasons.

"It's not where we want to be, we know that; we don't need anyone else to tell us that at this point. And when things like that happen, that's when you see some guys go in different directions," Hamonic said. "That's the reality of the business, that's the reality of Garth [Snow's] job of him trying to make us better.

"It's tough to see A-Mac go. Whatever it was, his contract or free agency, it's tough to see a friend go, and a family friend with how close our families had become over the years."

Hamonic's place as a longtime Islander was secured last summer when he agreed to a seven-year, $27-million deal. The Islanders were coming off a playoff series in which the 23-year-old earned notice for getting under Penguins star Evgeni Malkin's skin frequently, and Hamonic and his teammates believed the team was headed in the right direction.

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Instead, the season has been a mess. Hamonic was one of 12 Islanders in Monday night's lineup who dressed for Game 6 of the Penguins series last May.

"As a team we have to move past this, look forward to what we have and we can't keep feeling sorry for ourselves," Hamonic said. "We have to get going. We've got a lot to play for still and we have a lot of pride in this room."

That attitude is part of the reason why Hamonic still might have an "A" on his sweater when next season rolls around. With MacDonald gone, Hamonic's 237 games as an Islander are most among the regular defensemen, though Radek Martinek's 486 leads all Isles on the squad.

"I don't think I've changed in the week I've been wearing an 'A,' " he said. "The best leaders don't change just because they have a letter on their shoulders.

"Do I want to step up and take a bigger role? One hundred percent. I think a lot of guys feel that way. We may not be the oldest group in the league, but you don't need to be an older guy to lead. Kyle [Okposo], Johnny [Tavares] and Andrew helped me a lot. Whether I have the 'A' for another week or another six years, it won't change what I do."

Notes & quotes: Evgeni Nabokov got the start in goal for the Islanders Monday night. After returning home, the Islanders will have four games in the next 14 days, all at Nassau Coliseum.

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