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Finley Ready For His Chance

6'8, 249-pound defenseman wants to put injury-riddled past behind him

Monday, 01.14.2013 / 4:52 PM / News
By Greg Picker
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Finley Ready For His Chance
6\'8, 249-pound defenseman wants to put injury-riddled past behind him

At a massive 6’8, 249 pounds, defenseman Joe Finley was an exciting NHL prospect in 2005, his draft year. Committed to attend the National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey powerhouse, the University of North Dakota, the Washington Capitals thought highly enough of the Edina, MN, native to select him with the 27th pick of the opening round.

Four impressive years, one National Championship and a remarkable plus-61 rating should have propelled Finley into the pro ranks.

But even giants can be slayed.

Instead, three injury-laden seasons have kept the defenseman from earning everyday NHL ice time. Claimed off of waivers Monday from the Buffalo Sabres, the Islanders’ newest defenseman will attempt to rectify his NHL career.

Finley began his professional career in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. Just 17 games into the season, he suffered his first major setback, an aneurysm in his left hand. Finley underwent surgery to relocate a vein from his wrist to his hand. He wasn’t allowed any physical contact for six months, ending the season just after it had started.

The following season, Finley was on track for a bounce-back campaign, starting the year with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. A torn MCL forced him to the sidelines for three months before he returned to South Carolina to finish the season. Two years into his professional career, Finley had played just 51 games, while watching a lot more from the press box.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s a part of the game,” Finley said. “I’m just happy to be healthy and have this opportunity. I’ve never considered myself injury prone, but I’ve been fortunate to put that behind me and continue to just learn the pro game and continue to be a solid defensive presence that I need to be,””

Eager for a new start, Finley signed with the Buffalo Sabres for the 2011-12 season and spent most of the year with Buffalo’s top AHL affiliate in Rochester. He played in 57 of the team’s 76 games and led the Americans in penalty minutes with 143.

Last year, the stay-at-home defenseman finally got his first taste of the NHL, playing five games with the Sabres. That stretch included a game against the Islanders in which he fought Matt Martin.

“He’s a tough, strong kid,” Finley said. “That fight was a little longer than I’m used to going but it was good. I’m excited to be on the same side as him now.”

Finley isn’t the only player on the Islanders roster who skated for the Sabres last season. Former Sabre Brad Boyes should help Finley get settled on Long Island.

“It’ll be nice to see a familiar face in the locker room when I get there tomorrow,” Finley said. “It will help ease some of the nerves.”

Finley has played in 35 games this season with the Rochester Americans and knows his conditioning will work in his favor early in the shortened NHL season.

“We’re in mid-season stride right now,” Finley said. “I just have to come and focus on working hard and fitting in.”

Finley hopes to make his mark on the Islanders blueline this season. He’ll join his new team at training camp on Tuesday, eager to take the next step in fulfilling the potential that made him such an exciting prospect.

“It’s fantastic,” Finley said. “It’s a great opportunity and I couldn’t be happier.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
3 NYI 62 40 20 2 200 173 82
4 TBL 62 37 19 6 203 167 80
5 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
6 DET 59 33 15 11 173 154 77
7 WSH 62 33 19 10 184 156 76
8 BOS 60 29 22 9 158 158 67
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 58 25 23 10 166 161 60
12 NJD 61 25 27 9 137 161 59
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 59 22 30 7 134 159 51
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 62 29 34 4 63
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 62 13 26 21 39
B. Nelson 62 17 19 6 36
F. Nielsen 62 11 25 11 36
A. Lee 56 20 12 12 32
J. Bailey 50 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 52 7 22 15 29
N. Leddy 62 8 17 14 25
T. Hamonic 52 4 19 16 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 32 13 0 .910 2.49
C. Johnson 8 7 1 .890 2.95

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