Every NHL team has to deal with injuries throughout a season, but it’s the monumental injuries that can have catastrophic effects on a season. For the New York Islanders, 28-year-old defenseman Adam Pelech is one of those players whose absence has the potential to be a make-or-break loss for the organization.
Classified as a day-to-day upper-body injury after being demolished while off-balance by St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo last Tuesday, the injury to Adam Pelech is undoubtedly head-related based on how his helmet bounced off the end boards behind netminder Ilya Sorokin, with the neck potentially being a cause for concern as well.
Since the injury, New York has not provided any update, other than Lambert saying prior to game time that he would be out of the lineup.
With Pelech out, Robin Salo has taken his spot alongside Ryan Pulock, but Lambert has shuffled his pairings mid-game as he tries to counteract the hefty loss.
In the two games that pairing has been together, a total of 17:58 minutes as a pair, the Islanders have been outshot 7-2 when they have been on the ice. They own a Corsi For percentage of 17.65, the lowest amongst the 10 defensemen combinations that have played a minute or more over the last two outings.
This was a critical chance for Salo, who had not played an NHL game in over seven weeks before slotting in against the New Jersey Devils this past Friday in the 6-4 win. While Salo seemed more physical in his own zone against the Carolina Hurricanes in the 3-0 loss, he seemed a step behind and could not combat the big bodies he was up against in the defensive zone.
But even if Salo played well, there was no way he would be able to fully fill the hole Pelech leaves behind.
While the Islanders offense continues to be a statistically positive standout, at 3.17 goals per game, it’s been the activated defense leading the brigade up the ice, creating scoring chances with shots from the point.
With Pelech on the ice this season, the Islanders have outshot their opponents 235-219, outscoring them 23-15.
As a pairing with Pulock, a pair that goes against the best of the best the opposition has to offer on a nightly basis, the Islanders have outshot their opponents 181-174, outscoring them 19-10, per Natural Stat Trick. They have served as the Islanders’ top pairing since Barry Trotz took over in 2018.
Lambert had relied on them heavily early, given the youngness of Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, while rostering a seventh defenseman in the sixth spot, whether Sebastian Aho or Salo. Scott Mayfield has been relied upon heavily as well, but after a strong start to the season, he has truly struggled as of late.
What also should be a concern is the play of Ilya Sorokin as of late, as, despite none of the losses being his fault, he hasn’t looked as sharp as he looked to start the season, losing his last four games, posting under a .900 save percentage twice. He and Varlamov need to step up their game to help counteract the Pelech loss.
The New York Islanders, are holding down the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference by a slim one point over their cross-town rival New York Rangers, will hit the road for four straight, starting with a trip to Boston to face a Bruins team that sits in first place in the Atlantic Division (21-4-1).
The Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL, on both sides of the ice, as they lead the NHL with 3.92 goals per game while allowing the fewest goals per game at 2.15. Following that game, the Islanders face the Arizona Coyotes, the Vegas Golden Knights, a banged-up Colorado Avalanche team, and close the road trip against the Rangers.
One would think that if Pelech cannot return for the road trip, the Islanders will call up a defenseman from Bridgeport as a seventh option.
Here are the options: RD Grant Hutton, LD Dennis Cholowski, RD Paul LaDue, LD Samuel Bolduc, LD Parker Wotherspoon.
Four of these five options have NHL experience, Bolduc being the only one without. Pelech being a left-side defenseman doesn’t limit the call-up since this would be the seventh guy. The likely call-up would be Grant Hutton or Paul Ladue, two players who showed well during training camp.
The New York Islanders will be on the practice ice Monday morning, and we should get more information on Adam Pelech’s status.