The Islanders' defense may not be fully healthy, but the way the team has responded to missing a couple of key regulars is a sign of a healthy franchise.
Johnny Boychuk (two games missed) and Lubomir Visnovsky (one game) are listed as day-to-day with upper-body injuries. When Brian Strait and Matt Donovan, who have been healthy scratches for the better part of this past month, stepped in for the second time in a week, the Islanders' defense didn't miss a beat in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Devils.
"Those two guys played real well again," Jack Capuano said of Strait and Donovan. "We have guys who are working real hard in practice, guys with high character who want to be in there playing."
There also are young players in Bridgeport hoping for a chance to crack a deep Islanders defense. One of them, Ryan Pulock, might get that chance.
Pulock opened lots of eyes during training camp with a booming shot and a calm demeanor at age 20. A lower-body injury, coupled with the late-camp additions of Boychuk and Nick Leddy, knocked Pulock from consideration when the season began.
But with Visnovsky and Boychuk unknowns for another busy week that begins Tuesday against the Senators at the Coliseum, Pulock was pulled from Bridgeport's lineup just before the Sound Tigers' afternoon game with Providence on Sunday, and it's certainly not for his performance.
Pulock, the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft, is tied for the AHL rookie lead with eight goals, six of them on the power play. Without Boychuk's big shot and Visnovsky's craftiness, the Islanders' power play is stagnating a bit (0-for-6 in the past two games). Pulock also gives Capuano a righthanded shot, an advantage over the lefthanded Strait and Donovan.
If Pulock comes up, it's primarily for his offensive abilities and not a knock on the other two options, one of whom still will play if Boychuk and Visnovsky both are out Tuesday.
Strait has played four of the past 14 games and the Islanders have allowed one goal or fewer in three of them. Donovan didn't play in the first 20 games of the season but was part of two wins, with only one goal allowed, last week.