Artturi Lehkonen went down in front of the Islanders’ net Tuesday night at Barclays Center, and the Montreal left wing’s right skate blade came up and sliced Johnny Boychuk in the area of the left eye. It had the unsettling look of a possible horrific injury.
But Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced Wednesday that Boychuk’s eye was unscathed. The 36-year-old defenseman still needed 90 stitches to repair a cut to the eyelid that happened in the third period of the Islanders' 6-2 loss. In a sense, though, he got lucky.
“Johnny Boychuk is OK,” Lamoriello said at the team’s practice facility in East Meadow. “There’s been no damage to his eye.
"He had quite a night. First of all, you don’t know what happened. He felt the skate blade get his eye. But fortunately it just got the eyelid . . . A plastic surgeon took care of it. I don’t want to exaggerate with the stitches because they do very small stitches, but there were 90. He’ll be fine.”
The Islanders have 17 regular-season games left, and they’re in a tight fight to make the playoffs. Lamoriello didn’t have an estimate of how long Boychuk will be out.
“His eye is closed certainly because of the stitches,” Lamoriello said. “But there’s no damage to the eye, so there’s no time frame of something healing. It’s just when his eye opens up and he feels comfortable. He has no headaches or anything.”
Boychuk came to the practice facility Wednesday morning, but he didn’t address the media.
“We were all happy to see him . . . and see that his eyeball seemed OK,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said.
Boychuk wrote a message on his verified Twitter account later in the day.
"Thank you to everyone for the positive messages and thoughts!" Boychuk said. "I am extremely grateful. Please know they did not go unheard. Luckily for me the skate only cut my eyelid. Sorry for the late response ... facial recognition wasn’t working ... thank you again my friends. Johnny B."
Josh Bailey called Boychuk “a close friend of all of ours.”
“When something like that happens, we’re all human,” Bailey said. “To keep playing after that, you’re worried about him. We kind of heard some news — it looked like he was going to be OK — on the bench.
“And then after the game, he sent a nice text to all of us. We have a team chat we all talk in. I think he knew we were all worried about him.”
Lamoriello said rookie Noah Dobson will replace Boychuk, and that defenseman Thomas Hickey might be called up from Bridgeport on an emergency basis because “a couple of other defensemen are banged up.”
Like Boychuk, valuable fourth-line center Casey Cizikas was lost to an errant skate blade. He suffered a leg laceration on Feb. 11. Since then, the Islanders are 2-6-2. Lamoriello said Cizikas is “at least another couple of weeks away.”
“I have total confidence in this group,” Lamoriello said. “I don’t think we would’ve made any transactions [before the trade deadline] if we didn’t have belief in the group that we have here and giving them some support.”
Notes & quotes: Pageau, an Ottawa native who was acquired from the Senators on Feb. 24, will make his return to Ottawa Thursday night. “It’s going to be a lot of emotion,” the center said.