Injuries could be issue for Islanders’ defense

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Life has generally been smiling on the New York Islanders lately.

On the ice, Mathew Barzal continues to rise as a star, including last night’s overtime-winner. The Isles also won a bid to build a new arena at Belmont Park. Correct or not, both developments make people optimistic about John Tavares sticking around beyond this season, the most important development of them all.

Not every headline is a happy one, though.

The Isles’ defense could be in for some serious challenges going forward, as two important blueliners could be sidelined for some time with injuries.

For one thing, around the holiday break, it was revealed that Calvin de Haan might need to undergo surgery, threatening to end his season. Today brought another unfortunate development, as the Islanders announced that Johnny Boychuk is considered week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

The Islanders recalled the other Sebastian Aho (139th pick in 2017), a blueliner who’s been quite impressive with 20 points in 29 AHL games so far this season.

That’s the good part: getting a young defenseman an opportunity. It’s tough to spin it too positively beyond that, unless you’re merely not sold on Boychuk and/or de Haan. So far, Boychuk ranks second among Islanders skaters in ice time (20:40) while de Haan comes in fourth (18:44).

To be fair, the two defensemen haven’t been setting the world on fire with those minutes in recent games, so maybe the drop-off won’t actually be so bad for the Islanders.

Still, in a brutally competitive Metropolitan Division, they don’t have a ton of room to stumble.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.