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 ET / 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 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
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 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 76 34 40 -3 74
R. Strome 75 15 32 19 47
K. Okposo 54 15 31 -10 46
F. Nielsen 75 13 28 9 41
B. Nelson 76 18 22 9 40
A. Lee 70 23 16 12 39
J. Bailey 64 15 23 4 38
J. Boychuk 66 8 25 9 33
T. Hamonic 66 5 25 16 30
N. Leddy 72 10 19 15 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 35 16 2 .915 2.39
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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