The New York Islanders welcomed defenseman Adam Pelech and forward Kyle Palmieri back to the lineup on Monday night following long-term injuries. Following the 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both spoke about their injuries and how they felt.
Adam Pelech Rusty in Return
Adam Pelech had missed the last 21 games with an upper-body injury sustained against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 6 in a 7-4 loss after a reckless hit by Robert Bortuzzo. He’s the glue that keeps this group together. Besides being the strongest defenseman on the roster, he is instrumental in the Islanders’ transition game, as offense has been hard to come by in his absence.
He looked like himself in the first period, with no rust.
But then the struggles came, as he looked anything but sharp. He was on the ice for three goals against, being beaten in not Pelech-like fashion.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 24, 2023
“Well, it’s obviously nice to be back with the team. It’s been a while,” Pelech said. “The result wasn’t what we wanted, and I personally feel like I have to be better, so hopefully, take a day tomorrow, and we’ll get some rest and back at it on Wednesday with a better effort.”
When asked if his injury, which was only classified as an upper body, was due to his head hitting the boards against the Blues, Pelech said that was it.
Pelech is the Islanders’ glue, and if they have any chance of turning things around and going on one of those streaks at some point, he will need to be a key factor.
The 28-year-old finished the night with one shot, two hits, one block, and a minor penalty in 16:55 TOI.
Kyle Palmieri Was on a Mission
Kyle Palmieri may not have been lighting the lamp at an alarming rate this season, with just six goals and three assists in 21 games, but he can snipe from a distance and is a rather strong defensive forward. Given the Islanders’ struggles on both sides of the puck, Palmieri was welcomed back with open arms.
It was a long road back for Palmieri as the last time the Islanders were in Toronto, a 3-2 win on Nov. 21, Palmieri collided with Morgan Rielly, missing 10 games with what was likely a concussion. He returned to the lineup on Dec. 16 against the Arizona Coyotes but was targeted by Nick Ritchie, leading to what is believed to be yet another concussion.
He missed another 17 games before returning Monday.
Early in his return, Palmieri set the tone. He was going hard toward goal, firing everything he could from every angle. But like Pelech, there was some rust to Palmieri’s game in terms of finishing as he had three registered shots, with three misses.
“I mean, I obviously [had] some good looks that I missed the net on, but overall, it’s just nice to be back,” Palmieri said. “It was a long road, and just overall, it’s just nice to be back and playing some games.”
Palmieri had been practicing for quite some time before returning, and NYI Hockey Now asked if there was more to it than just being physically ready.
“I mean, I’m no expert on the topic, so at the end of the day, it wasn’t ready,” Palmieri said. “Sometimes those things take time, and sometimes it turns around quick, but it didn’t, and I just took it day by day.”
“And obviously, you want to get back. We’re all competitors here. You want to get back as soon as possible. But at the same time, you want to be smart. I wanted to get back and stay back.”
The 31-year-old finished the night with three shots, an assist on Anders Lee’s second of the game, a minor penalty, and seven hits in 16:40 TOI.