Johnny Boychuk figured the first impression he made on incoming coach Barry Trotz and his staff was not a favorable one during the Islanders’ 2018 training camp.
“They were probably like, ‘Oh, my God,’ because I’m coming back from an injury, or you have surgery,” Boychuk said. “Their first impression was me being hurt. It’s nice to be healthy.”
The defenseman deals with the usual bumps, bruises, aches and pain that all NHL players do. But after two difficult offseasons of rehab in 2017 and 2018, Boychuk came to camp this season fully healthy and has remained so.
He snapped a 20-game streak without a point Thursday night, recording a goal and an assist in the Islanders’ 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins at TD Garden.
Boychuk, 35, who is in the fifth season of a seven-year, $42 million deal, has dressed in all but one game for the Islanders (23-8-2) this season. And his healthy scratch in a 5-2 loss to the Oilers at the Coliseum on Oct. 8 was largely to get rookie Noah Dobson in the lineup for his NHL debut.
It’s been a nice turnaround for Boychuk, who was limited to 66 games in 2016-17 and 58 games the following season because of myriad injuries.
“Coaches, when you come in, you think you know it right off the bat and you make these assumptions and you find out it was so stupid and they’re not validated,” Trotz said. “After the first day or two days in training camp , I was like, ‘Man, I don’t think Johnny can get it done.’ But he was coming off an injury that was pretty significant. It took him a while to catch up to speed.”
Trotz said he quickly came to respect Boychuk’s team-first mentality and contributions.
“There’s an absolute appreciation for what he brings night in and night out,” Trotz said. “As I keep telling him, he’s not visually or aesthetically very sexy as a defenseman. But he’s effective.”
Boychuk’s stat line at Boston was a prime example. He logged 16:35 with his first multi-point game of the season, matched Anders Lee with a team-high four shots and blocked three shots. He also had a prime view of Semyon Varlamov’s game-turning, diving glove save at 16:27 of the second period.
“It just makes a world of difference when you don’t have to come back from surgery or doing rehab. It’s refreshing,” said Boychuk, who has two goals and seven assists. “I feel better than when I was 30 years old. It’s just nice to be healthy and I’m grateful for that.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders reported Cal Clutterbuck was able to fly home with the team after going to a Boston hospital for stitches. Clutterbuck had his left wrist cut by Patrice Bergeron’s skate blade late in the third period. The team said there would be no further update until Saturday . . . The Islanders, who did not practice on Friday, host the Ducks on Saturday afternoon at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.