With six games remaining before the NHL takes off for the Olympic Break, the New York Islanders have just received the best news they’ve heard all season.
Only seven points out of a playoff spot with hockey left to play, Long Island’s hockey team will be getting Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov back into their lineup tonight as they take on the Boston Bruins.
Visnovsky, out since October 17 with a concussion, and Nabokov, out since January 6 with a strained quad, have both missed significant time this season; even so, the Islanders have managed to stick around the playoff conversation. The reinforcements should give the Islanders the strength for one last push during the final stretch of the 2013-14.
On the blue-line, Visnovsky should help stabilize a defensive unit that has struggled throughout the entire season. It might not happen right away, but he should be able to eat valuable minutes that weren’t being evenly distributed throughout the lineup while he wasn’t healthy, settling down a few players that may have been playing in bigger roles than they were accustomed to.
He also provides the Islanders with a true power play quarterback, a role assumed by Andrew MacDonald during his absence.
In net, Kevin Poulin will start tonight, but Evgeni Nabokov will be present on the bench and dressed as the backup. Nabokov has compiled a 9-8-5 record with a .905 SV% and 2.88 GAA this season, all team bests. For the Islanders to make the postseason, they will certainly need Nabokov, a 13-year NHL veteran, playing at the top of his game.
Before the season began, an argument could be made that, other than John Tavares, Visnovsky and Nabokov were the two players that the Islanders could not afford to lose this season. They did. And have suffered because of it, as clearly indicated by their position in the standings.
More good news out of this morning’s pre-game skate was that Travis Hamonic was present and a full participant. There is an outside chance that he could play on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium against the New York Rangers in the Stadium Series contest.
To make room on the roster, Matt Donovan was sent back to Bridgeport along with goaltender Anders Nilsson.
Now that two of the walking wounded have returned , and the Islanders are still in the playoff hunt, it is time for the team to continue making positive strides forward as we enter the home stretch of the National Hockey League season.
Welcome back, Lubo and Nabby.