Here’s a change for the Islanders: Johnny Boychuk is not dealing with any physical issues at the start of training camp as he had the previous two years.
It’s a positive sign for the 35-year-old defenseman, especially as his last season ended with him missing the Islanders’ four-game sweep by the Hurricanes after blocking a shot with his left foot in Game 4 of the first-round sweep of the Penguins.
After a few treatments and physical therapy sessions, Boychuk was still able to have “a normal summer” of working out and training.
“It should help,” Boychuk said on Saturday, the second day of on-ice practices at Islanders’ training camp in East Meadow. “You come into camp and you’re either injured or you’re coming into camp trying to work the kinks out of your surgery or the cartilage or the scar tissue, whatever you have.
“It’s nice to come in and not feel like I’m already behind somewhat, or dealing with something,” added Boychuk, who dealt with knee issues the previous two training camps.
The Islanders open their seven-game preseason schedule on Monday night in Philadelphia. Boychuk is one of seven defensemen returning from last season – eight with Luca Sbisa in training camp on a professional tryout – so there will be strong competition throughout the preseason for playing time.
Boychuk is entering his sixth season with the Islanders and has a limited no-trade clause kick in this season in his seven-year, $42 million deal that runs through 2022.
The organization’s defensive depth is one thing Boychuk has seen evolve in his time with the Islanders. Another is the familiarity of playing in coach Barry Trotz’s defense-first system. Last season, Trotz’s first with the team, the Islanders allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
“I think that will help, definitely because, last year, the first month, month and a half, it was a learning process,” Boychuk said. “We’ve got a lot of good players coming up. It’s exciting. We’re not playing as individuals any more. We’re playing as a team and we’re focused.”
Boychuk played 74 games last season, his most with the Islanders and just three games shy of his career high, compiling three goals and 16 assists.
“I thought it was pretty good but I’m looking forward to starting the year off right and being healthy and having a full season,” Boychuk said.
Notes & quotes: Forward Tom Kuhnhackl missed his second straight day of on-ice work with an unspecified issue that Trotz called, “just a day to day thing, nothing serious…” Forward Simon Holmstrom, the 23rd overall pick in June, remained out from the team practices after blocking a shot with his foot back home in Sweden. Trotz said Holmstrom has resumed skating on his own. “I think he’s pretty close,” Trotz said … Defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel will miss a longer period of time after hurting his right arm in Friday’s practice. He was wearing a sling on Saturday.