Johnny Boychuk was on the ice for the morning skate and was in good spirits afterward, answering questions about the Super Bowl (a former Bruin, he is a Patriots diehard). Still, he was not quite ready to come off injured reserve and into the lineup.
He has been out since Dec. 27 with a lower body injury and a team that regularly gets outshot misses his defensive presence. Coincidence or not, the Islanders had given up 60 goals in the 15 games he missed, heading into Saturday night. That average, four a game, is up from 3.49 in games before that.
In any case, he is a leader and a stalwart. “He’s going on his fourth day in a row now of pretty hard work. I’m not a doctor and I can’t tell you he’s going to wake up and feel ready to go,” Doug Weight said. “I think a lot of it in this situation is going to be up to Johnny. He’s a tough kid. He wants to play and it’s eating him up, but we’ve got to make sure he’s ready.”
Kulemin looking better
Nikolay Kulemin was on the ice before the morning skate. The solid penalty killer and mindful defensive forward was said to be out for six months after shoulder surgery in November and there still is no telling if he can return this season. Still, he is ahead of schedule.
“The guys in there get mad at me when I say they’re ahead of schedule,” Weight said, standing outside the locker room. “But he looks good. He’s here every day and he has been on the ice now for close to a couple weeks, really working. It looks like he’s shooting the puck pretty well. It would be nice, sooner than later, for him. He’s not a guy that people think a lot about, but he’s a glue guy. He plays the game the right way.”
Inclusion night at Barclays
The Islanders hosted the NHL’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative Saturday, a project aimed at inclusion. Although no player in the league has identified himself as gay, the Islanders indicated it will not be a problem when someone does. “We’re a tight-knit group and the entire hockey community would stand behind that person,” Casey Cizikas said. “We welcome everybody, no matter what. I think that’s the great thing about hockey and the people in it.”