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Showing Them The Ropes

In addition to being a huge weapon on the power play, veteran d-man Lubomir Visnovsky is helping a trio of Islanders rookies adjust to the NHL

Saturday, 03.23.2013 / 7:54 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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Showing Them The Ropes
In addition to being a huge weapon on the power play, veteran d-man Lubomir Visnovsky is helping a trio of Islanders rookies adjust to the NHL

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano uses a library of adjectives to describe what has made defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky so effective this season for the Islanders.

“Deception. Speed. Hockey sense,” Capuano said. “He has the ability to make opposing forwards know that he’s going to join in on the rush. That’s what we look for. We know he’s a great skater and how elusive he is because of his agility and mobility. And he’s a smart hockey player too.”

The 12-year NHL veteran has three goals and six assists in 19 games since joining the Islanders, lighting the lamp in back-to-back games from Mar. 19-21. He was brought to Long Island for his veteran leadership and prowess on the power play; he’s manned the point on the top unit while posting six of his nine points on the man advantage.

Part of what's made Visnovsky’s success with the Islanders so interesting is the plethora of defensive partners that he's been matched with at even strength. The 36-year-old has played with almost every blueliner on the roster, including three rookies who the Islanders added during training camp.

“I started with [Brian] Strait early in the season, who unfortunately is injured now,” Visnovsky said. “I played with Thomas Hickey and he’s very talented. I played last game with [Joe] Finley, who played well. He’s a big, strong kid. I’ve got more experience than the young guys, so I try to teach them a little. But I don’t talk too much, because the guys play very well. The communication between us is simple, because those guys are all so talented.”

That’s not to say the young players don’t try to learn everything they can from Visnovsky. Even the 6’8” Finley, who plays more of a stay-at-home style – the total antithesis of what the 5’10” Visnovsky brings to the table – is drawing upon the little things his defense partner does well in order to round out his own game.

“I think there’s definitely a lot of things you can learn from his game,” Finley said. “Whether it’s his poise or ability to change the shooting lane from the offensive blue line to get pucks through. It’s little things like that that I see and might try to emulate, to make it more a part of my game.”

In Capuano’s system, defensemen are encouraged to join in the attack when presented with the opportunity. The coach preaches a four-man attack, while still holding his defensemen responsible for maintaining their defensive assignments.

“Everybody’s got a different style,” Capuano said. “Joe and Thomas obviously will join when they can. But Viz is able to beat the first guys on the forecheck with his skill and jump into the offense.”

Hickey says that Visnovsky’s intellect makes him elite at generating those chances.

“You want a four-man attack, so you need a defenseman to join the rush to create opportunities,” Hickey said. “His routes are so good that he puts himself in that position more often than not.”

Visnovsky added that while he enjoys playing the aggressive style with the puck, there are inherent dangers involved.

“There is a risk with that sometimes,” Visnovsky said. “During the game against Montreal, I jumped up and I lost the puck because it bounced, and they came back the other way 3-on-1. They didn’t score and we actually turned around and John Tavares scored right after that, but that’s the risk.”

Finley, who was out of the lineup that night, enjoys the responsibility that comes with being the last defenseman back when his partner joins the attack.

“He’s a guy who’s going to carry the puck a lot, and I’m good with that,” Finley said. “It’s my job, if he’s going to be pinching or playing down low, to read the play and identify whether it’s an odd man situation or if we have numbers. If we lose the puck, I’m trying to make them turn the puck back over to us and transition the other way.”

With Matt Carkner back in the lineup after five weeks on Injured Reserve, Capuano has been rotating his defensive corps to reflect the team’s game-by-game needs. Visnovsky may not play with the same defense partner at even strength for an extended period of time, but whoever skates alongside him will continue to reap the rewards.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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