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 ET / 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 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
5 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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