The New York Islanders have a great opportunity to get a win when the imploding Vancouver Canucks pay a visit to Barclays Center tonight.
A loss, however, and things will only get dicier for coach Jack Capuano and his struggling crew. The Isles (4-6-2) have just one victory in their last six games, and for the next 4-6 weeks they’ll be without one of their best defensemen, Travis Hamonic.
On top of the Hamonic injury, there’s a daunting schedule. The rest of the month includes one trip to Florida and another to California, with home games against the likes of Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh (twice) mixed in.
Capuano is expected to roll out new lines against the Canucks. Most notably, big free-agent signing Andrew Ladd has reportedly been bumped all the way down to the fourth line to skate with Casey Cizikas and Nikolay Kulemin. Ladd has just one assist in 12 games, and that assist came on an empty-netter.
Ladd has spent most of the season on a line with top center John Tavares. But against the Canucks, Tavares will again be with Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck. That same trio was together for Saturday’s shootout loss to the Oilers.
On defense, Hamonic’s spot on the top pairing with Nick Leddy will be taken by AHL call-up Adam Pelech.
“We’re going to have to make the best of it,” Capuano told Newsday on Sunday. “Travis was playing power play, first-unit penalty kill, 21-plus minutes a night, alternate captain. Pelly can do the job when he comes up. It’s the same as always when we lose someone. It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.”