Johnny Boychuk missed 18 games with a lower-body injury and the Islanders missed him. They activated the 34-year-old defenseman from injured reserve and tested him out in warmups before Friday night’s game against Detroit at Barclays Center. He passed the test and played his first game since Dec. 27.
The Islanders had yielded an NHL-worst 201 goals in 55 games entering the game, including 72 in the previous 18 games. They went 6-10-2 in that stretch. Goals against remained a problem for the Islanders on Friday night, but they managed to beat the Red Wings, 7-6, in overtime. Boychuk was a minus-3 but had a team-leading four hits.
Despite missing 21 games this season, Boychuk still ranked second on the team in blocked shots with 77 entering the game. “Certainly, Johnny is important in our room and clearing the net front,” Doug Weight said. “Simple and hard hockey.”
Johnston provides boost
Ross Johnston led the AHL in penalty minutes when the Islanders summoned him from Bridgeport on Jan. 19. They sent him back Jan. 26, then recalled him three days later. The 6-5, 235-pound left wing played his fifth game Friday night. The first four came with 15 penalty minutes, plus two goals and one assist, making the rookie even more of a fourth-line asset.
“Every time he’s played in our lineup, he’s had a presence, whether it’s with his energy, his vocals, the way he’s played on the ice, the way he stands up for guys,” Anders Lee said after Johnston scored in Thursday night’s loss at Buffalo. Johnston was scoreless with no penalties against the Red Wings.
Before the Detroit game, Weight said, “Obviously, he’s worked on his skating in the last 2 1⁄2 years. He’s getting the puck in and playing heavy.”