Johnny Boychuk said he plans to return to the ice for the New York Islanders on Thursday, and his left eye is close to fully recovered, according to Newsday.
The defenseman needed 90 stitches to close a cut to his eyelid and hasn’t skated since the Islanders were in Calgary on March 11. The season was paused the next day due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“My eye seems to be almost like 100 percent,” Boychuk told the newspaper Wednesday. “There’s going to be a little bit of discomfort, but not much. Nothing to have me worried about being on the ice again.”
Boychuk was cut in the third period of a 6-2 home loss to the Montreal Canadiens on March 3 when Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen was tripped, causing his skate to lift into the air and catch Boychuk under his visor. He did not sustain any damage to his eye and said he will wear a face shield in lieu of a full cage.
The Islanders (35-23-10, .588 points percentage) will play the Florida Panthers (35-26-8, .565) in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers with the winner of the best-of-5 series advancing to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A restart date and two hub city locations have not been announced.
The NHL on May 26 announced its Return to Play Plan, which will involve 24 teams, 12 from each conference, competing for the Stanley Cup.
“All I can do is prepare like we’re going to play, and, if it does happen, I’m going to be ready,” Boychuk said. “If we don’t play, I already have a leg up for next season.”
Islanders forwards Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, and goalie Thomas Greiss, skated June 8, the start of Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan, when NHL teams began limited workouts with small groups at their facilities.
“I think it was a good first step,” Bailey said after the workout. I think our schedule going forward will probably just increase as we go and treat it like as if it were a typical August of leading into training camp.”
Phase 3 of the Return to Play Plan would be the opening of training camps and will start on July 10, the NHL has said. Phase 4 would be the start of the qualifiers.