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Johnny Boychuk leaves game after taking illegal check to head

Matt Martin #17 and Semyon Varlamov #40 of

Matt Martin #17 and Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders celebrate after defeating the Florida Panthers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 1, 2020 in Toronto. Credit: Getty Images/Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo

The Islanders’ defense depth may be tested quickly.

Johnny Boychuk was knocked out of Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Panthers in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto at 2:44 of the second period on defenseman Mike Matheson’s illegal check to the head. Coach Barry Trotz had no immediate update on his veteran, who was sent off to concussion protocol.

“If we have to go to Plan B without Johnny, we have a pretty good group to pick from,” Trotz said.

The Islanders brought 10 defensemen to their sequestered hub city bubble and Trotz’s toughest lineup decision for Game 1 was likely which six defensemen to dress. Andy Greene, Noah Dobson, Thomas Hickey and Sebastian Hickey were healthy scratches, but Greene and Dobson were probably the best pair through Training Camp 2.0 and each had an assist in Wednesday night’s 2-1 exhibition win over the Rangers.

Boychuk was coming over the Panthers’ blue line when Matheson stepped up with a high shoulder check. Initially, Matheson was called for a major penalty but it was amended to a two-minute minor after a video review.

“I trust their judgement,” Trotz said of referees Francis Charron and Chris Lee. “I won’t agree with it because of the fact I want to protect the players. I thought it was borderline.”

“I thought the hit was pretty high,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “We did a good job back there, shortened our shifts and continued to battle.”

Pulock logged 20:06 and top-pair partner Adam Pelech was on the ice for 21:31. Nick Leddy played 21:41, Devon Toews logged 22:40 and Scott Mayfield played a team-high 24:31.

Notes & quotes: Jean-Gabriel Pageau won 8-of-10 faceoffs and enjoyed his first win with the Islanders after being acquired on Feb. 24. The Islanders went 0-3-4 with him in the lineup before the season was paused. Pageau called the Islanders a “brotherhood” and said Training Camp 2.0 allowed him “to be part of the family…” Forwards Andrew Ladd, Otto Koivula, Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov and goalie Christopher Gibson were the other healthy scratches.

New York Sports