A bit of good news for the Islanders came with a bit of unfortunate timing.
The good news was that defenseman Johnny Boychuk began skating on his own Thursday morning, the first time he has been on the ice since being on the receiving end of a shot to the head from the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek on Saturday.
“Absolutely progress,” coach Barry Trotz said. “From the tub to the ice? Yeah.”
Yet while the Islanders beat the Canadiens, 2-1, at the Coliseum on Thursday night, Voracek completed his two-game suspension from the hit by missing his team’s 5-2 home loss to the Capitals — the team the Islanders are fighting for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
With the win, Washington maintained its two-point lead atop the division, while the Islanders hold one game in hand.
Voracek had appealed the suspension, but, after already missing Monday’s win over the Senators, the two-game ban was upheld by commissioner Gary Bettman. Only suspensions of five games or more can be appealed to a neutral arbitrator.
Boychuk likely would have to practice with the team Friday on Long Island in order to be available for this weekend’s back-to-back, Saturday afternoon at Detroit and Sunday night at Minnesota.
The Islanders’ power play went 0-for-2, extending its drought to 0-for-22 in a 10-game streak dating to Feb. 23. Trotz tried juggling point men — moving rookie Devon Toews to the first unit for Nick Leddy, then moving him back again — but it didn’t work.
“We just have to work with what we have and use the people, and they just have to get it done,” Trotz said. “Plain and simple.”
Once Boychuk is healthy, the Islanders will be carrying a crowded roster of nine defensemen and 15 forwards. They also still have two more regular call-ups from AHL Bridgeport left before the start of the postseason.
Yet Trotz had no intention of beginning to rest players in anticipation of being fresh for the playoffs — at least not yet.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said. “I’m thinking about tonight’s game and about trying to get to the playoffs. There’s no resting anybody until we cross that line — if we cross that line. It’s in our hands. We have to do it.”
After returning to practice on Wednesday, goalie Robin Lehner backed up Thomas Greiss on Thursday night. Lehner had been the recipient of a shot to the head from the Senators’ Brady Tkachuk on Tuesday night, and went through the concussion protocol.
The lineup was the same as it was on Monday, meaning the scratches up-front were Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl.