The Islanders have done decently enough in the past six games without Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic, going 3-3. Considering how important those two defensemen are to them, .500 is about the best they could hope for.
Hamonic and Boychuk are all but certain to return Friday night in Detroit, just in time. The Islanders surely will need their two most physical and only two righthanded shots on defense against the Red Wings, who like the Isles have 42 points, and the Lightning, which visits the Coliseum on Saturday night. Tampa Bay has 43 points, tops in the competitive Atlantic Division.
"I'm glad I haven't missed too, too much time, but it's frustrating, especially when we were getting beat three straight," said Hamonic, who had a full practice alongside regular partner Calvin de Haan on Thursday at IceWorks. "It stinks to be out when you're winning, when you're losing. It just stinks, period."
Brian Strait, Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinhart, who was returned to Bridgeport on Tuesday, pitched in while Hamonic, Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed four of the games, were out during that stretch. The Islanders allowed two or fewer goals in each of the three wins.
The three defeats were messy, with 17 goals allowed in two losses to the Blues and one to the Wild, but the team depth and structure were tested severely. Fifty percent may not be a passing grade in school, but it's good enough in the NHL for a team that had been on a roll.
"It's a credit to Garth [Snow, the general manager] and the coaches," said Hamonic, who has missed 10 games with various injuries. The Isles are 5-5 in those 10 and 6-4 in the 10 missed by Boychuk.
"You're going to need guys to step in," Hamonic said. "You just look around the league and see how many guys are out injured. We have the guys to do the job."
Notes & quotes: Jack Capuano wouldn't say whether he'll use both his goaltenders for the back-to-back games . . . Michael Grabner (lower body) was the only Islander not on the ice for Thursday's practice.