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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 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 49 28 13 8 145 125 64
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 49 18 22 9 110 137 45
15 CAR 48 17 25 6 104 125 40
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 48 23 25 -1 48
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 48 9 25 16 34
B. Nelson 48 15 15 5 30
F. Nielsen 48 9 17 4 26
J. Boychuk 38 4 21 16 25
J. Bailey 36 8 14 7 22
N. Leddy 48 7 14 14 21
N. Kulemin 48 11 9 0 20
A. Lee 42 13 5 6 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 26 10 0 .912 2.42
C. Johnson 6 5 0 .870 3.38

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