CALGARY, Alberta - Western Canada is Boychuk country. Johnny Boychuk's parents were on hand New Year's Eve in Winnipeg, and his two older brothers, Sam and David, were in attendance with other family members Friday night for the Islanders-Flames game.
On Sunday in Boychuk's hometown of Edmonton, though, is the big celebration: His wife and twin daughters will be there for a larger family gathering before Isles-Oilers that will include a first birthday celebration for his girls, Kenzie and Zoe.
"It's not until the 13th," Boychuk said, "but better to have them here with family to celebrate than without."
Playing in the Eastern Conference means limited trips home to play in front of friends and family for Boychuk, who spent his first five NHL seasons with the Bruins. There has been a relatively new way for his big brothers to keep up with his NHL career, however, and they use it often.
Sam and David Boychuk are easily recognized by Islanders fans on Twitter, where they post quite a bit about their kid brother's new team and interact with many Islanders fans.
"We get a lot of followers once people figure out who we are and our connection to Johnny," David Boychuk said Friday, having driven with his brother from Edmonton. "We both get so much interaction with Islanders fans, they're always communicating and updating on the games and everything. It's been great."
Sam, 40, (@SaBoych) and David, 32, (@DaBoych) joined Twitter during Johnny's Bruins days, and only once did Johnny tell his brothers to tone it down. "It was during the playoffs one year and we had a couple beers and got on there," David said. "Their PR guy told Johnny and he told us. It hasn't happened since."
Islanders fans, especially the more gregarious ones who populate Twitter, are eager to know whether Boychuk, a free agent at season's end, will sign an extension with the Isles before he becomes the prized defenseman on the free-agent market in July.
No real talks have taken place yet. "When the time comes to talk, we'll talk," he said. "It'll happen eventually. It's going to have to."
His brothers get peppered with questions about his happiness quite often on social media. "We definitely know more than what we portray on Twitter, just by being his brothers," David said. "But it's not up to us to reveal any of that stuff. I know he likes playing in New York, being with the team and being in that area."
"They're going to contend for a long time," Sam chimed in.
Boychuk's Islanders tenure started in the best possible way; he scored the first goal of the season and had six points in the first three games. His scoring slowed, thanks to a few nagging injuries that eventually cost him nine games in December and resulted in his removal from the top power-play unit.
Jack Capuano put Boychuk back at the point on the top power play after the holiday break. He scored the power-play winner in overtime to beat the Capitals on Monday, his first goal since Oct. 14. Then a puck off his broken stick on a slapper caromed right to Frans Nielsen for another power-play goal in Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Jets."It's not that I don't want to shoot. There's a time and a place to shoot, and you don't want to get it blocked and have a breakaway," said Boychuk, who has 72 shots on goal, far and away the leader among Isles defensemen despite missing 10 total games. "Teams are getting in lanes. But that means someone else is usually open.''