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Desperate Islanders Hoping Waiver Claim Reilly Can Aid Blue Line

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Screenshot courtesy of the New York Islanders

East Meadow, NY– Mike Reilly is no stranger to new settings and will need to use that experience as he joins the suddenly desperate New York Islanders.

The Islanders claimed the defenseman off waivers on Saturday, needing him to help stabilize a defense corps that has become worryingly thin in the last few days with injuries to Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho.

“I know some guys are down,” Reilly said after his first practice with the Islanders on Monday. “I kind of thought there was maybe a chance it could happen. I was very excited to get this opportunity.”

Reilly, 30, has played in 341 games for five different teams. However, he only appeared in two games this season for the Florida Panthers before being waived. Now on board with the Islanders, Reilly will need him to get accustomed rather quickly and shoulder some of the exorbitant minutes their other defenseman have been forced to play the last couple of games.

I think the system is pretty straightforward,” Reilly said. “They showed some video this morning before we went on the ice and went over the neutral zone and a couple of other things. I think it’s similar to other teams’ systems in a way that there’s always kind of some tweaks here or there. They’ve done a good job communicating, and I’ve talked to a couple of the players  if I have a question or two.”

The Islanders rotated their defense pairs in practice on Monday, so it’s yet to be seen where exactly Reilly will fit into the lineup at even strength. Reilly did, however, quarterback the second power-play unit, which is a role he’s played throughout his career.

“He’s got great mobility,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s a great skater and passes the puck hard. That’s, that’s his MO, a good first pass guy.” 

What should help Reilly acclimate to his new surroundings are the familiar faces that already exist within it. The nine-year NHL veteran has played with several of the Islanders at various stops throughout his career.

” I kind of feel more comfortable coming in right away,” Reilly said. “I’m just a little bit nervous coming in. But it feels like you don’t have to walk on eggshells just based on knowing a couple of guys and being familiar with them.”

Raised in Minnesota, Reilly has ties to Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Hudson Fasching and former Islander Nick Leddy. While playing for the Ottawa Senators, he shared a locker room with Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

I liked having him as a teammate before,” Pageau said. “It’s great to have him here. I think he’s going to help the team. He’s obviously a great player, but he’s an awesome guy too. He’s got a lot of experience, and he’s going to fit right in with this group.”

Reilly will make his Islanders debut tomorrow in New Jersey.

Surely, it’s not enough time for him to pick up everything he needs to know about the team. Nevertheless, the Islanders don’t have a choice while they’re desperate for stability on defense.

“He’s got enough experience as a veteran guy and has played enough games,” Lambert said. “Certainly, he has an idea of how to play in the league.” 

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