The New York Islanders are falling fast in the Metropolitan Division, and after their fifth loss in six games, things aren’t getting any better in Brooklyn.
During Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, defenseman Travis Hamonic was forced to leave with an upper-body injury, and the news of his injury went from bad to worse as the Islanders announced the 26-year-old rearguard will be out the next 4-6 weeks with the ailment. The exact nature of Hamonic’s injury wasn’t disclosed.
The injury came during the first period of the Islanders’ shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers when Hamonic blocked Patrick Maroon’s shot. Hamonic played a few shifts after the blocked shot, but he left before the end of the first frame and did not return.
Hamonic is one of the major cogs on the Islanders’ blueline and, though his minutes have been up and down, a legitimate No. 2 or No. 3 defender. He has averaged nearly 20 minutes per game in the early going of the campaign, skating upwards of 21 minutes five times in the early season, while managing two goals and five points in 12 games.
While losing Hamonic won’t exactly make waves across the league like a major injury to, say, Islanders captain John Tavares would, it’s nevertheless one of the absolute worst possible breaks for a club that needs to rely as much on its defense this season as much as it does its ability to score.
In fact, few would argue that New York’s biggest strength is its back end. The top three of Hamonic, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk is one of the stronger trios in the league, and the bottom three blueliners — Thomas Hickey, Calvin de Haan and Dennis Seidenberg — are fairly strong as well. None of this is to mention up-and-comer Ryan Pulock, who was set to play a bigger role this season before suffering a foot injury to start the campaign.
And scoring might not seem like a major concern at the moment for a team that ranks 13th in the league in goals for, but it could become an issue.
Following a recent loss, Islanders coach Jack Capuano not so subtly pointed out that the Islanders lost two of their key scorers in the off-season — Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen — which resulted in more than 130 combined points coming out of the day-to-day lineup, and New York has had a near impossible time finding the scoring to replace those losses early in the campaign.
Though it’s still early days, the Islanders’ 2.75 goals per game through 12 games is a step back from the 2.77 from the past season and well behind the 2.99 mark during the 2014-15 campaign. Those issues are compounded by the fact that Andrew Ladd, who was brought in as a replacement for the lost scoring, has only one point — an assist — in 12 games this season.
If the Islanders are going to be able to cover for the loss of a top-pairing blueliner like Hamonic, the scoring is going to need to pick up, otherwise he could be returning to an Islanders team that is too far out of the playoff race to get back in.
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