The New York Islanders have four players on Injured Reserve and another two on the shelf as they gear up for their final game of 2022 with a Thursday night battle against the basement-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets.
Out of the six battered players, four were from questionable hits where there was very little to no retaliation at the moment of the injury or later in the game.
No fines or suspensions were handed out by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety either.
It begs the question, are the New York Islanders being taken advantage of?
When New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert was asked following Wednesday’s practice if he thought opponents were talking liberties on his players, he had this to say.
“No, not at all,” Lambert said.
Lambert agreed that it was just coincidental that that’s how all these injuries were happening.
Let’s take a look at those specific injuries.
On Dec. 6, in a 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues, Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech lost his balance behind the Blues net. He quickly dished the puck off his partner, Ryan Pulock, and right as he made the pass, he was pushed in the back by Blues forward Josh Leivo and fell to a knee, but was still facing up the ice.
A second later, Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo charged in and crushed Pelech, sending the 2022 All-Star defenseman hard into the boards–head first.
His right leg also bent back as well when he fell back.
Pelech seemed dazed and confused and needed to be helped off the ice by the trainer and a teammate. He did not return to the game and will miss his 10th straight game Thursday.
There was no retaliation on Bortuzzo.
Given how fast the play was and how the Islanders were starting a transition, there’s the likely chance that no Islander on the ice saw the hit at the moment. And given that it happened early in the third period, there was no intermission for the players to get a look at it and respond accordingly.
“Well, I don’t have an update, and I haven’t had a good enough look at it yet to comment on it,” Lambert said following the game.
A few days later, Lambert was asked again about the hit.
“Well, I think it happened pretty fast. He was a little bit off balance. So you know, from that standpoint, that’s really all that happened,” Lambert said.
Then came the injury to forward Kyle Palmieri against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16. In his first game back after missing 10 games with what we believe to have been a concussion in a collision with the Toronto Maple Leafs Back on Nov. 21.
In the third period of the 5-4 loss at Mullet Arena, Palmieri was forced to enter concussion protocol late in the third after Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie hit him late, up high.
Ritchie hit on Palmieri, who is just back from a concussion pic.twitter.com/9TX29RCBNX
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) December 17, 2022
Ritchie received two minutes for interference, but it seemed like a targeted blow.
As you can see, Sebastian Aho went after Ritchie but not much more was made of the hit.
“Yeah, you don’t like that, and where we were on the bench, couldn’t really see the hit,” Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now. “You could see it and hear it, and then you see the replay. The refs make him go off the ice for concussion protocol, but they don’t want to look at the hit either, so it’s an interesting one. But I think he’s alright. Not a hit you like to see for sure.”
Palmieri wouldn’t offer up much following the game.
“Yeah, I finished the game. Not so much to say about the hit.”
Palmieri will miss his sixth-straight contest Thursday night.
A week later, the Islanders lost 21-year-old forward Simon Holmstrom to what appeared to be a knee injury.
Holmstrom stayed down for a while before the trainer helped him off the ice as he could not put any pressure on the knee.
The officials called the slash but missed the knee-on-knee penalty, which could have been and quite frankly should have been a five-minute major for kneeing. The Islanders immediately huddled around Holmstrom as it was a hectic play.
“I think he’s pretty well considering the damage there […] I feel like there should have been maybe two penalties. Just never like seen that happen to anybody. And especially my friend.”
Holmstrom will miss his second straight contest Thursday night.
And lastly, Oliver Wahlstrom was a retaliation victim Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Huge hit by Oliver Wahlstrom, although he might have taken the worst of it pic.twitter.com/3n9ZUuPtqS
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) December 28, 2022
But that’s not where Wahlstrom suffered his injury.
What is not shown on the broadcast is that Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph went at Wahlstrom to stand up for his teammate. While Wahlstrom was down, Joseph hit him, and Wahlstrom’s head went right into the boards.
The 22-year-old forward stayed down for a few seconds before he skated right to the bench and eventually made his way down the tunnel.
He did not return in the first period as he likely was forced into concussion protocol.
Joseph was not penalized on the play.
“While he was on the forecheck, he laid a pretty good hit on him, and so their player was just coming over to his defense, but nothing was made out of it,” Lambert said following the game.
Wahlstrom will likely miss Thursday night’s contest after not skating on Wednesday.
The New York Islanders are aware of the questionable hits. Given what that locker room is like, there is no reason to believe they are not retaliating against the instigators because they don’t feel they need to.
On the flip side, it seems like every time defenseman Alexander Romanov lays a legal body check, he gets jumped by opponents.
Food for thought.
Given how these dangerous hits have led to longer-term injuries, New York may need to make a lesson of an opponent, so the rest of the NHL knows they will not stand for it any longer.