Following Tuesday’s morning skate, we spoke to Robin Salo again to get an update on how he was feeling. Since playing the first four games of the season, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert has not gone back to him, going with Sebastian Aho.
Salo has served as the seventh defenseman. And when not serving as the extra defenseman, he has been in Bridgeport, getting minutes in with the Islanders AHL affiliate.
During training camp, Salo opened up about the adjustments he needed to make playing on North American ice after playing in Finland professionally. He says he is feeling much more comfortable in year two.
You can read that piece here:
“I mean, personally, I feel good,” Salo said. “[I’m] getting used to the game. So I would say on that part. I mean, I’m used to the rink by now. It’s just a matter of playing well, just doing the small things good out there.”
When Lambert switched Salo for Aho, this was the message that the 24-year-old defenseman was given by his head coach:
“I mean, I just have to keep on working. Of course, lineups are going to change, and usually, the best players play, so it’s just, you have to get used to that and just keep on working and doing good in practice and, and play well when you get the chance. Just try to focus on your own game and do the best you can when you’re out there.”
This past Sunday, Robin Salo was loaned to Bridgeport to play in their matchup with the Springfield Thunderbirds. He thought he played well in the 6-4 and that it took some time to shake some rust off. Lambert said the same thing but had heard that he played well.
“I heard he played well. I thought he played well. It’s tough when you come in and you haven’t played for a while. So you know, just a little bit of shake the rust off a little bit,” Lambert said. “The true gauge obviously comes when he gets back into game action, but you know, as history would tell us and as players have been brought along in the past, you know, by any organization, there’s improvements in his knowledge, certainly watching games, talking to veteran players or players that are playing and getting a real good feel and understanding for the game.”
Since becoming a professional, Salo has never been the odd man out, and he’s had to face reality and mentally adjust.
“It’s a new thing for me, for sure,” Salo said. “I mean, it’s probably for the first time during my career I’ve been in this position, but it’s just experience, you know? You just have to learn to adapt, and as I said, do the best you can every day and just sort of focus on the things you can do.”
Despite not getting any NHL game action over the Islanders’ last 19 games, he’s learned a lot from participating in the practices and the morning skates.
“Every day, you learn something new. And it’s just my second year over here, too,” Salo said. “So, just have to try to suck everything in, get all the info.”
“So just try to be patient and, of course, learn things from the more experienced guys.”
Like Salo, Aho has also been in a similar position over his first few years in the NHL, and Salo has undoubtedly learned from him.
“He’s been a really huge help for me here too, and he’s a really good friend. So yeah, of course, if I have anything on my mind, I usually talk to him. So he’s been a really good help.”
One thing Salo is working on is being stronger defensively and stronger in front of his goal. He told us that he’s worked hard in the weight room to try to add some muscle mass.
“I’m trying to focus on that because I think I need to get stronger,” Salo said. “Of course, when I look at myself, and I look at the guys here, so (laughs). So course, I’m trying to focus on that. I’m just trying to put a little bit more strength on, just a little more balance, so I’m more steady out there.”
Scott Mayfield, Robin Salo’s defensive partner for all four games he’s played this season, has also been a big help.
“He’s been a huge help. So I think he’s a guy to look up to,” Salo said. “I think he’s a very smart guy, good hockey IQ. He’s such a good defensive player, and I’m really trying to learn the defensive part from him. Just looking at him, and he’s usually talking to me too. He just gives small tips here and there. So yeah, just have to listen.”