Johnny Boychuk

Islanders looking forward, not taking series lead vs. Penguins for granted

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Barry Trotz is very familiar with the situation the Pittsburgh Penguins face being down 0-2 in their Round 1 series against the New York Islanders.

During opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Trotz’ Washington Capitals dropped the first two games of their series with the Columbus Blue Jackets before rebounding to win the next four to advance. The Islanders have a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven matchup with the Penguins following Friday’s 3-1 victory, but as the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Sunday’s Game 3 (12 p.m. ET; NBC), things can quickly take a dramatic shift.

“We understand that we won a couple of games here but you have to win four,” Trotz said after Game 2. “You can’t take anything for granted.”

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk has played 99 NHL playoff games, second-most on the Islanders behind Valtteri Filppula’s 160. He’s played in two Stanley Cup Finals and has been through many roller coaster series. His message to his teammates right now is pretty simple.

“Forget about the last two games,” he said. “They’re going to be coming hard in their building and we have to be ready for them because they’re a good team and have very good forwards and ‘D’. We have to be ready.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Through his vast NHL experience, Trotz will have them ready because his team will be facing a Penguins roster desperate to get back into the series and avoid an 0-3 hole. Like Wednesday night, Game 2 was a tight game, but the Islanders, after getting away from their aggressive forechecking style during portions of Game 1, got back to their successful formula in Game 2, forcing Pittsburgh into a sloppy, turnover-filled night.

“We kind of learned a little bit of a lesson, that first one,” said Islanders captain Anders Lee. “We got away from our game a little bit in that second period and we knew tonight that we can maintain our game plan for as long as possible and put ourselves in a good position.”

Even after a surprising 103-point regular season, some figured the Penguins’ star power would be too much to overcome in the series. Through two games, the script has been flipped. There’s still so much hockey left to play, but the Islanders are hitting the road taking the confidence and chemistry that’s brought them success this season with them.

“This room is a strong room, close room, one that sticks together,” said Lee. “I think we’re showing it there on the ice.”

MORE: Bailey, Eberle help Islanders take commanding 2-0 series lead

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers’ Voracek to appeal two-game suspension

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Jakub Voracek’s feelings on being suspended two games by the NHL for his hit on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk Saturday night were summed up in five simple emojis:

Voracek was assessed a major for interference. Boycuk did not return to the game and has been ruled out of the Islanders’ game on Monday against Columbus.

The Philadelphia Flyers forward is taking his displeasure with the Department of Player Safety one step forward by appealing the two-game ban, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Voracek will travel to the NHL’s offices in New York City on Tuesday afternoon in hopes of having the suspension reduced to one game or wiped out entirely.

“He’s pointing at me like it’s WrestleMania or something,” Voracek said after the game. “Come on, it’s a hockey game. This is a guy who was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year at the end of the game, and he’s going to do that. Give me a break.”

“I don’t think Jake has any wrong intentions there. He’s trying to protect himself,” said Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon. “The guy is sprinting in on him hard. It’s not like it was a 50/50 puck, where he’s waiting for him to come to him and step into him. He clearly sees that the guy coming and he’s trying to brace himself.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will hear Voracek’s appeal. The process will stop after Bettman’s decision as only suspensions of six games or more allow the player to appeal to a neutral arbitrator.

Voracek will remain out through the duration of the two-game suspension as he appeals.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

Sabres’ Eichel, Flyers’ Voracek facing hearings after Saturday hits

Sportsnet
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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will be busy on Sunday.

Forwards Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers will be asked to explain their actions in their respective games on Saturday after two massive hits.

Eichel’s came in the second period of a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. He and Carl Soderberg were chasing down a loss puck in the neutral zone when Eichel took his shoulder and laid it square into Soderberg’s chin, forcing the latter to leave the game temporarily.

Eichel was given a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play, which can be seen here around the one-minute mark:

Eichel had enough, he admitted after the game.

Nikita Zadorov drilled him in the first period (a hit you can see from the beginning of the above video) after an offside whistle had already been blown.

“He hits me after they (bleeping), excuse my language, blow the whistle,” Eichel told the Buffalo News following in the game. “That’s whatever.

“I thought he was just reaching. I don’t know. I’d have to look at it, to be honest with you. I’m trying to protect myself. It’s a physical game. I think he’s going to deliver a hit to me.

“It seems like they were taking runs a little bit at times. If I’m going to be at the forefront of it, I might as well push back a little bit. I’ve got to protect myself.”

Eichel has never been suspended.

Meanwhile, Voracek will have to answer for this bit of interference he threw on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk in their game on Saturday.

In a 5-1 game for the Flyers, Boychuk was pinching in to try and snag a loose puck heading Voracek’s way. Instead, Voracek saw Boychuk coming and dropped him with hit, forcing Boychuk from the game and resulting in a five-minute major for interference.

You can be the judge here:

Voracek was far from pleased with the call following the game.

“The explanation I got was if I hit him in the head, it would be a game [misconduct],” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I don’t know why I got five. I try to protect myself, to be honest, maybe the puck was a little further than I thought — I thought the puck was close to me.

“It’s a tough hit. You know, he’s getting off the ice, he’s pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania or something. Pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania. Come on, it’s a hockey game. … He’s the guy that was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year in the end of a game. He’s going to do that? Give me a break.”

Voracek, like Eichel, has no history.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Islanders’ Boychuk vows retribution on Flyers’ Voracek after hit

Sportsnet
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Johnny Boychuk made a vow to Jakub Voracek as he was skating off the ice following a devastating interference hit from the latter on Saturday night in Long Island.

“I will get you,” he appeared to mouth at Voracek, who was already in the penalty box for his early third-period transgression.

Moments earlier, Boychuk was pinching in from the point to try and win a loose puck heading in Voracek’s direction. Boychuk never made it to the puck thanks to Voracek, who saw Boychuk coming and laid some nasty interference on him.

The hit itself appeared high and Boychuk’s left shoulder appeared to bounce off the ice, causing him to lay there for quite some time as held it, grimacing in pain.

You can see the hit here and Boychuk’s reaction once he was back up on his feet being helped off the ice.

Voracek was assessed a five-minute major for interference while Boychuk never returned to the game.

Scott Mayfield went after Voracek once his time in the sin bin was up, but it instant melee that ensued mean there was no retribution. Mayfield was handed 10-minute misconduct, rendering his night over with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

The hit was unnecessary at best, with the Flyers up 5-1 in a game they’d end up winning 5-2. Of course, the counterpoint to this is Boychuk was flying in Voracek’s direction and Voracek was just bracing for impact. Either way, there’s a good chance the league takes a look at this one, given the scenario and the injury, right?

Boychuk, providing he’s healthy, will have his chance to seek vegeance as these two teams play each other on March 23 in their final meeting of the season.

UPDATE:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Islanders’ Boychuk personifies commitment, blocks shot with face

Sportsnet
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The New York Islanders are fighting for a playoff spot and Johnny Boychuk appears ready to put his face on the line to make the promised land come April.

With the score 0-0 late in the first period in Saturday’s matinee between the Isles and the New York Rangers, Boychuk used his cheek to block what appeared to be a sure goal off the stick of Rangers forward Chris Kreider.

Here’s what commitment looks like:

The Isles ended up losing the game 2-1. They are still in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, level with the Buffalo Sabres in the second spot on 52 points. The Sabres play later on Saturday.

The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, sit one point adrift of both the Isles and the Sabres. The Canadiens also play on Saturday night.

The Isles may have not won the battle on Saturday, but the war for a playoff spot is still to be had. That’s the kind of block that fans will love, especially in early January.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck