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Defenseman Johnny Boychuk close to return for Islanders

Johnny Boychuk of the New York Islanders

Johnny Boychuk of the New York Islanders celebrates his second-period goal against the New York Rangers at Nassau Coliseum on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

WASHINGTON — Johnny Boychuk wasn’t ready to return Thursday night, missing his 11th straight game with a shoulder injury suffered on New Year’s Eve in Buffalo. But he got in another long skate in the morning and Jack Capuano pointed toward the games Saturday in Detroit and Sunday in Brooklyn against the Oilers as the new target for his return.

“He’s real close, obviously, but not ready yet,” Capuano said of the defenseman. “He’s had a couple good practices and he’ll get one more Friday.”

Brian Strait got into the lineup on defense Thursday night, replacing rookie Scott Mayfield. Mayfield had some positive moments in Tuesday night’s 5-3 win over the Wild but also a few rookie moments in which the 6-5 defenseman’s lack of speed was evident. Against the high-powered, fast Capitals forwards, Capuano went with the more experienced Strait in Boychuk’s continued absence.

“Scott’s a big, physical defenseman and he works extremely hard out there,” Capuano said. “There’s still a bit of a learning curve for him with his decision-making and his feet, as there is for any young player.”

Berube sits out

Two nights after his first NHL win, J-F Berube was back to being the Isles’ third-string goaltender. Jaroslav Halak got the start and Thomas Greiss backed up, as it has been for the bulk of this season.

Capuano emphatically said Berube will be with the Isles the rest of the season — the 24-year-old requires waivers to be sent to the AHL — so playing opportunities the rest of the way, barring injury to the top two guys, could be nonexistent. It’s an odd situation for a developing prospect, but Berube seems to understand his deal.

“You have to be realistic,” he said after a long morning workout. “We have Jaro and Greisser here and they’ve been real good. I’m just going to prepare every day like I’m going to play the next game so I’ll be ready when they need me.”

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