The white-hot New York Islanders are facing their first bit of adversity this season.
The Isles, who currently lead the NHL with 18 wins, have placed veteran defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky on IR, the club announced Wednesday. With those two out, New York has summoned Griffin Reinhart — the fourth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft — up from AHL Bridgeport.
Reinhart, 20, was the second blueliner taken in the loaded ’12 draft class, one that included fellow defensemen Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, Derrick Pouliot and Jacob Trouba. Offensively, Reinhart’s been good for Bridgeport this season — two goals and eight points in 15 games — though he has posted a minus-8 rating (insert critique of plus-minus as a viable statistic here.)
The bigger story, though, is how the Isles will fare without Boychuk and Visnovsky in the lineup. It’s unclear for how long either will be shelved — both were placed on IR retroactively, to Nov. 27 and 28 respectively — but even in the short term, their absences will be felt; Boychuk led all Isles d-men in points (14) and averaged over 22 minutes a night while Visnovsky had six points in 17 games and was over 20 minutes a night himself.
The Isles also have a tough stretch of games coming up — from Dec. 6-13, they’ll take on some quality Western Conference opponents in St. Louis (x2), Minnesota and Chicago. With Boychuk and Visnovsky out of the lineup, the club’s top seven defensemen will be Reinhart, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, Brian Strait, Nick Leddy and Matt Donovan.
The one saving grace, though, is that New York has built itself a nice cushion heading into this stretch. The Isles are tied with Pittsburgh on 36 points for the Metropolitan Division lead, and are third overall in the Eastern Conference.