DALLAS — Devon Toews’ parents will be at American Airlines Center for the Islanders’ game against the Stars on Sunday night, which is fitting. Because Johnny Boychuk is about to become a dad again, Toews is likely to make his NHL debut.
Boychuk returned to New York after Thursday night’s loss at Vegas to be with his wife, Sheena, for the birth of their first son and third child. If he does not rejoin the team — he’s unlikely to return, particularly with the three-day Christmas break starting on Monday — Toews will be one of six available defensemen.
“I’m just trying to be prepared,” said Toews, 24, a fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Quinnipiac. “If I get a chance, I feel like I’m ready. I’ve prepared well and I’ve had a couple of days to be here with the guys. If I’m in, I’m excited for it.”
Toews was recalled from Bridgeport on Wednesday after Thomas Hickey (upper-body injury) was placed on injured reserve. He was a healthy scratch against the Golden Knights.
The puck-moving, playmaking defenseman, who has five goals and 14 assists in 24 games for the Sound Tigers, participated in Thursday’s morning skate. The team was off on Friday, so Saturday’s practice at a public rink was his first full one with the Islanders.
“The tempo is a little higher,” Toews said. “All these guys can skate really well. Something I focus on a lot is my skating ability. I was just kind of trying to see where I fit in and can pick my spots.”
The left-shooting Toews skated on the right side with left-shooting Luca Sbisa. Islanders coach Barry Trotz elevated Scott Mayfield from the third pair to the right-shooting Boychuk’s spot on the top pair with Nick Leddy.
Toews has not played much on his off-side with Bridgeport but said he frequently played on the right before turning pro.
“It’s my job to know how to play left and how to play right and how I’m able to complement my partner,” Toews said. “I take pride in knowing the abilities of both sides. If I’m left or right, it doesn’t matter.”
His expected NHL debut will have taken a little longer than anticipated after he was limited to 30 games last season with Bridgeport and shut down after Dec. 26, 2017, for season-ending shoulder surgery. The Islanders also opted to sign Sbisa off a professional tryout offer despite Toews’ strong performance in training camp.
“I don’t think he’s going to be afraid of the stage,” Trotz said. “I think he has a lot of confidence in his ability. So just play his game.”
Notes & quotes: Hickey did not skate on Saturday but did skate on his own on Friday after participating in Thursday’s morning skate. The Islanders said it was not a setback, just the logistics of Saturday’s practice being held at a public rink.