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Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy excited about playing major roles with Islanders

Islanders newest defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk

Islanders newest defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk stand on the ice during practice at the Nassau Coliseum on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy arrived on Long Island on Sunday, put on their gear and practice jerseys Monday morning and went right to work: Boychuk with the Islanders' first power-play unit and Leddy with the second for pre-practice special-teams duty.

It was an early indication that the Isles' two new defensemen aren't here merely to shore things up. They will be leading the way on a defense that will look vastly different when the puck drops Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"We knew coming in that we need a threat up top for our power play, and he's got a big shot, a hard shot, and that can open up room for some other guys down low," coach Jack Capuano said of Boychuk. "Nick's an elite skater, very deceptive moving the puck, and we'll give him an opportunity as well. They're going to play some minutes."

Quite likely as a pair at even strength, too.

Boychuk and Leddy got to know one another when they arrived at the Long Island Marriott, then on the short walk to Nassau Coliseum.

Boychuk, 30, was quoted as being quite upset by the Saturday trade from the Bruins, for whom he played five seasons and won a Stanley Cup in 2011. But he was all smiles on the ice and in the locker room after his first practice.

"It's sad to say goodbye, but now it's a new beginning and there's some good things that'll be happening here," Boychuk said. "I know I'll be having a bigger role than I had in Boston. I'm up for the challenge and I can't wait to get in front of these fans. There's good things happening for us."

Leddy, 23, had been hearing rumors all summer that the salary cap-strapped Hawks were shopping him around. After playing a more limited role on a defense with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya, Leddy will get a chance to play bigger minutes as an Islander.

"It was a wild process. There were rumors for most of the summer," he said. "It kept growing and growing more toward the season. It's a relief that it's over and I'm happy to be here."

Capuano is thrilled, too, especially because of injuries to key regular defensemen. Calvin de Haan (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Monday and Ryan Pulock (lower body) and Lubomir Visnovsky (back) still are sidelined. Pulock and Visnovsky could join de Haan on IR by Tuesday.

But now the coach has two more top-four defensemen to go with Travis Hamonic and likely Thomas Hickey to start. Rookie Griffin Reinhart likely will make his NHL debut Friday if Pulock and Visnovsky are out.

"Obviously, we are banged up," Capuano said. "[Leddy and Boychuk] will alleviate some minutes from Hamonic and Hickey. We've got the depth up front now and we've got the depth on the blue line where we don't have to play a guy 27, 28 minutes."

Notes & quotes: Michael Grabner (lower body) also was placed on IR and defenseman Kevin Czuczman was sent to Bridgeport, leaving the Isles with only one forward to choose before rosters must be set Tuesday. Anders Lee appears to be the odd man out up front.

New York Sports