Andy Greene sat at the podium for questions, made available for a Zoom interview session before the Islanders faced the Capitals in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
But it was the veteran defenseman’s presence that provided that biggest answer, though perhaps his continued presence in the Islanders’ lineup should no longer be a daily question.
For now, Greene is in and Johnny Boychuk, who suffered a head injury in Game 1 of the Islanders’ best-of-five qualifying series against the Panthers but has been available for both games against the Capitals, is not.
“I can tell you this about Johnny Boychuk,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “He is a team-first guy. He is 100% pro. We know where we are. All he wants to see is the Islanders win. He knows where he stands with us and the coaching staff and his teammates. It’s not an issue at all.”
Greene logged another steady 15:47 with two shots and 3:49 of work shorthanded in Game 1 while paired with fellow left-hander Nick Leddy after the right-handed Boychuk also skated in warmups.
The Islanders acquired the then-Devils captain on Feb. 16 for a second-round pick in 2021 and minor-league defenseman David Quenneville. At the time, the Islanders were reeling defensively after Adam Pelech suffered what was thought to be a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury on Jan. 2, coincidentally before a game against the Devils.
The top-pair defenseman had time to heal after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the regular season on March 12, and Greene opened the postseason as a seventh defenseman.
“You never expect or hope somebody goes down,” said Greene, who entered Friday with one assist in his first four postseason games with the Islanders. “At this time, you’ve got to be ready for anything. Coming off such a weird break, not skating for three or four months, you really had to dial into training camp and be ready. I didn’t play the first game but you’re ready, you’re prepared.”
Trotz has coached against Greene since the undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) joined the Devils in 2007. Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who held the same positions in New Jersey until 2015 and brought Greene into the NHL, provided Trotz with a thorough scouting report.
“What you knew about Andy Greene was he was getting the top competition from the opponents,” Trotz said. “You knew he was a veteran guy. He was pretty efficient. He never got himself in trouble. You see that from afar. But [now] you really see his experience, his hockey sense, his quiet confidence and competitiveness and the leadership he has.
“I think it was different for him,” Trotz added. “He has long roots with the Devils. He had a relationship with Lou. Lou filled me in on the type of person he is. As it turned out, we had the pandemic, we had the re-training camp and it has been absolutely wonderful for him and Pager [Jean-Gabriel Pageau, acquired from the Senators on Feb. 24]. They feel part of the group. This is their team. You can really see the true picture of Andy Greene now.”
Greene, who turns 38 in October, is an impending unrestricted free agent as he completes a five-year, $25 million deal. He told Newsday in April he “definitely” plans to play next season.
Whether that will be with the Islanders is uncertain.
For now, though, his spot in the Islanders’ lineup is not in question.