The Islanders do not want their backline players to be traditional “stay-at-home” defensemen. Nothing against keeping the puck out of the net, but the team wants its blueliners to join the rush as well.
That is just fine with Johnny Boychuk, who has scored in each of the past two games. Heck, even his house wasn’t the “stay-at-home” type.
Boychuk and his wife love living in Garden City and are in the process of building a new house there. They respect tradition, too, and wanted to preserve their vintage 1883 home by donating it so it could be moved and used for Nassau County veterans housing at Mitchel Field. “They couldn’t do it because of a traffic light that they would have had to take down,” he said. “It was too bad, but we tried, at least.”
The old house was razed in the summer. He was hopeful that Tuesday was the day the permit would go through so he could start the new foundation on the same property.
In any event, he was just as upbeat about the way he and fellow back liners can help the team that will host the Canadiens at Barclays Center Wednesday night. Jack Capuano said that he has preached the need for offense from defensemen since he took over as Islanders coach. Players have noticed that the preaching has been more emphatic this season.
“It’s not a green light, it’s just, ‘When you get a chance to go up, go up,’ ” Boychuk said. “You’re not going to go up just because they say to go up. You can get caught and get scored on. But if there’s an opportunity to jump, you jump. I think it’s just reading the play.”
Dennis Seidenberg and Thomas Hickey each scored his first goal of the season in the past two games, to go along with Boychuk’s contributions (one of which was a shorthanded game-winner). Capuano insists that teams that get offense from their defensemen tend to thrive.
The Islanders will need all the firepower than can gather tonight, despite the fact they will be facing former teammate Al Montoya rather than world class goalie Carey Price (Montreal, like the Islanders, is playing the first of back-to-back games). At 5-0-1, the Canadiens are the only team without a regulation loss and have allowed only 10 goals. What’s more, the Islanders forward situation is unsettled, with Nikolay Kulemin having left practice early. He is considered day-to-day because of an injury he sustained Sunday. Capuano is not sure if Shane Prince will be able to play.
The team does know what to expect from Boychuk. Just the mention of his personality brings grins from his teammates. “He finds a way to get it done. He’s got a weird way of taking that clapper sometimes, he’s got a weird shot. But he’s a great influence in the locker room, too. A lot of us look to him,” John Tavares said.
Capuano added, “He’s a throwback type of player. He’s one of those guys, he comes to the rink every day and has fun. He plays hard, and to me that’s what it’s about. You practice hard, you play hard, you get rewarded for that.”
If the reward comes on the scoresheet, all the better. “Well, if you don’t enjoy scoring,” Boychuk said, “you should stop playing the game.”