As Ryan Pulock watched his longtime defensive partner Adam Pelech take the ice yet again Monday morning, he knew it meant a big step in the right direction as he and the New York Islanders eagerly await his return.
The Islanders blueliner immediately smiled when asked about Pelech, who continues to make progress and work toward a return to the lineup.
“It’s great. He’s been back, skating around with us a little bit, and a great sign for our team to have him getting closer to being ready. Such a key part of this team, so it’s amazing seeing him out there,” Pulock said. “And you know, I think it brings a little energy to the group when he’s out there, and you see how close he might be. It’s amazing seeing him out there.”
Once the Islanders returned from their four-game road trip, head coach Lane Lambert shared that Adam Pelech had skated the three days prior.
Last Thursday, before the Islanders’ contest against the Minnesota Wild, Pelech skated with teammates for the first time since his injury, during an optional morning skate.
But during morning skate ahead of their contest with the Washington Capitals, Pelech not only hit the ice again but took some drills with Pulock, as well as took part on the penalty kill. He’s been putting in the work as he was on the ice before the skate and remained on the ice for a long while after.
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“I think he looks good. I mean, when you’re off for that long, it takes a little time getting the legs back and just building that stamina,” Pulock said. “You guys see him out there. We see him out there. He looks good. He’s moving around, and it’s just a good, good sight to see.”
If anyone knows about being out of the lineup for a while, it’s Pulock. He missed over nine weeks last season with a lower-body injury but shared that Pelech isn’t in the same situation.
“I mean, his is very different compared to mine. I knew I was going to be [out for] weeks and then kind of go from there and see, so he is kind of a day-by-day thing, and when he’s feeling better, I think it’s a little different,” Pulock said. “Things happen throughout your career, and you’re going to miss time like that. And it’s tough. It’s tough sitting back and watching.
“It’s tough getting back, trying to get in shape and trying to…you want to rush back, and you want to get in, but you have to take your time, and you have to make sure you’re prepared. So, it’s just good to see him where he’s at and feeling good and getting ready to play.”
Pelech will miss his 16th straight game Monday night.
“It’s great to see him back on the ice with us,” Noah Dobson said. “He’s a key piece to our back end and our team as a whole. But I know once he’s back, hopefully sometime soon, it’ll be a big boost for us. I think it’s a big part of the defensive things we do. Penalty killing, matchups, and stuff like that. So it’s nice to see him back out there, and hopefully, we’ll have him back soon.”
While Pelech is a quiet guy, Dobson said he learns so much from his game just by watching him.
“When he’s playing and stuff, he’s a great guy that you can really learn from, especially stick detail,” Dobson said. “He’s got one of the best sticks in the league. So I think as myself as a defenseman, I can always keep getting better defensively. I can learn a lot from him, just the way he uses the stick, the way he defends, and stuff like that.”
Although a shutdown defenseman by trade, Pelech has a good set of hands on him:
“Yeah, he’s sneaky. He’s got a really good backhand toe drag. He doesn’t get enough credit for his poise and his offensive game as well because he’s so good defensively, but he’s definitely got a good skill set as well. So be excited to have him back soon.”
Mathew Barzal closed out the Pelech convo: “Pelech’s a big part of the team. Sometimes with the injury that he had, it takes time, and we’re just happy that he’s doing well and he’s progressing well.”
Islanders head coach Lane Lambert thought having Pelech on the penalty kill Monday morning was a critical step:
“We don’t have a lot of practice time, so with guys coming back off of these injuries, sometimes they’re just going to have to jump right into the pool.”
That’s a sign that when Adam Pelech is ready to get in the lineup, the Islanders will not wait for a team practice.