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New York Islanders

Losing Pelech And Aho Could Expose Flaw In Islanders’ System



AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Many have criticized New York Islanders president/GM Lou Lamoriello for not making high-profile changes to the team’s roster over the offseason. However, maybe his biggest oversight was not adding depth to the blue line.

Now, the Islanders may have to pay for it after their victory over the Ottawa Senators last night came at a massive price.

Early in the first period, Adam Pelech absorbed a hit into the wall and left the ice screaming in pain while clutching his arm. Sebastian Aho joined him in the Islanders’ dressing room minutes later after he was sent crashing into the boards.

Neither returned to the game, forcing the Islanders to play the rest of the night with just four defensemen.

Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov both set career highs in ice time, while Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield established their season bests.

Even though their performances were admirable, there’s no reason for those four to carry such a heavy workload in the Islanders’ next game tonight, never mind much longer. The only problem is they may have to.

Samuel Bolduc has been with the Islanders all season and is the first option to be inserted into the lineup.

Lamoriello signed Bolduc to a two-year contract extension in the offseason, hoping the 22-year-old would compete for a spot in the starting lineup. Instead, he was easily beaten out by Aho and has spent most of the season watching from press level.

Even when he has played, it hasn’t been for very long, as Bolduc is averaging just 9:38 of ice time across 1o games.

If it’s determined the Islanders must go without Pelech and Aho, they’ll need to make a call-up from AHL Bridgeport.

However, that’s not an option for tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Islanders have just $702,293 in available cap space, according to, and any call-up they make from Bridgeport would push them over the cap.

Although this situation can certainly be viewed as an emergency, it isn’t in the eyes of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.

The CBA stipulates that a team must play at least one full game from start to finish without a full lineup in order to make an emergency call-up.

If it gets to that point, the Islanders’ options are full of players with even less recent experience in the NHL than Bolduc.

Dennis Chowlowski has the most NHL tenure of the bunch. Previously spending time with the Detroit Red Wings and Seattle Kraken, the 25-year Cholowski has played in 170 career games. His last stint in the NHL came back in January when he played two games for the Islanders.

Cholowski has been the best puck mover in Bridgeport this season, with nine assists to go along with a goal.

As a left-handed shot, Cholowski could be penciled into the lineup without forcing head coach Lane Lambert to do too much shuffling.

Robin Salo is another candidate, as he’s played in 32 NHL games for the Islanders across two seasons. Salso was in the Islanders’ opening night lineup last year but spent the next few months back and forth between Long Island and Bridgeport, where he’s stayed since last December.

In 16 games this year in Bridgeport, Salo has four points with two goals and is a -4.

Not an overly physical player, Salo fits a mold closer to Aho than he does Pelech, so he may not be the best fit to eat up minutes on the penalty kill where the Islanders will desperately need someone to.

In that sense, they could consider bringing up either Grant Hutton or Paul LaDue. Both stand at 6-foot-3 and weigh north of 200 pounds but shoot right-handed, and only LaDue has played in the NHL in the last year, albeit for just one game.

Losing Pelech and Aho the way the Islanders did was an anomaly. Nevertheless, they’re potentially down two of their top six defensemen after not putting the necessary reinforcements in place to survive without them.




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