Last year, the Isles had to play their entire opening-round series without the services of Travis Hamonic.
This year, different story.
Hamonic, who missed the final six games of the regular season with a knee injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday and play in the playoff opener against Florida, per head coach Jack Capuano.
It’s terrific news for the Isles.
Hamonic is the club’s ice-time leader (23:49 per game) and will take some pressure off New York’s top d-man pairing of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, who were pressed into extra minutes with Hamonic on the shelf.
“He plays a lot of minutes and he’s a good defenseman,” Boychuk said, per the Isles’ website. “We need him to come back and play and play like he can and he will. It will give us a big boost.”
Based on today’s skate, Hamonic will skate alongside Calvin de Haan on the second blueline pairing, while Thomas Hickey and rookie Ryan Pulock will comprise the third. That would leave veterans Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait as the odd men out.
Considering how the Isles ended last season — a defensive unit comprised of Boychuk, Leddy, Strait, Hickey, Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield — they’ve got to be pretty pleased with tonight’s lineup.