Islanders: Will Ross Johnston Play In Game 2?
By Matt O'Leary
With Johnny Boychuk’s injury in Game 1, could the New York Islanders insert Ross Johnston into the lineup for protection?
Game 1 wasn’t too kind to the veteran Islanders defenseman, Johnny Boychuk. Within the first two minutes of the game, he took a penalty from Frank Vatrano and stayed down for a while before getting back up.
Then, early in the second period, he took a questionable hit from Mike Matheson that knocked him out for the game. Boychuk only got five minutes of ice time due to the injuries he suffered from both hits and likely won’t be playing in Game 2.
Barry Trotz and company are going to have a tough decision on their hands when it comes to who should get the start on the blue line in his place if indeed he isn’t cleared to play on Tuesday. Additionally, Trotz might look to add a little muscle to the lineup.
Could Ross Johnston be an option for the Islanders for Game 2?
Johnston played 32 games for the Islanders this year putting up four points (3 goals, 1 assist). Johnston wouldn’t be added for any form of offense, it would be his fighting skills that get him a lineup spot in this series.
According to Hockey Fights, Johnston has been in six fights in the regular season this year. In his career, including the preseason, Ross The Boss has 18 fights in the NHL.
The Islanders could be looking for his physical presence after Mike Matheson did this to Johnny Boychuk:
While we often see fewer fights in the playoffs, it’s not completely gone away. For instance, back in 2015 when Tom Wilson essentially ended Lubomir Visnovsky’s career with his hit the Islanders retaliated.
Anders Lee dropped the gloves with Wilson in Game 5, as a clear fight back against what happened in the game prior.
Lee didn’t win the fight but the message was sent that the Islanders weren’t going to be pushed around. Well, would putting Ross Johnston in to fight Mike Matheson be worth it?
I would argue probably not. He did get an extended look in the exhibition against the Rangers but he has never played in a playoff game. I would imagine that Barry Trotz prefers Tom Kuhnhackl’s experience on line 3 rather than Johnston who would likely play somewhere between eight to 10 minutes.
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It wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world if he got into the lineup but with how the Islanders middle six looked in Game 1 I wouldn’t be so quick to be making changes.