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New York Islanders

Pulock Still A Few Weeks Away, Salo’s Growth Continues



New York Islanders defeneseman Robin Salo as he scored his first career NHL goal on Tuesday

Following the win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz gave an update on defenseman Ryan Pulock.

Trotz gave no information other than that Ryan Pulock is “continuing down his path of rehabbing” and added, “if we can get Ryan back in the fold in the next few weeks or so, then hopefully, he can really bump us up during all these games that we have.”

The hope that Pulock’s return draws near does not hold much value as what was supposed to be a four to six-week recovery timetable has now kept him away from the team for over nine weeks.

The next-man-up attitude has been a common theme for the New York Islanders this season and in Pulock’s absence, Robin Salo has been given the chance to play and the 23-year old has done a formidable job.

“With every bad situation, being Ryan, being injured for a long period of time, there’s opportunity for a young guy to jump in there and Robin has done that, Trotz said Tuesday morning. “I think he’s gotten more comfortable with the increased number of games and the increased minutes that he’s, he’s earned.”

“We have more veteran guys in there. It’s allowed him to feel a comfort level that you know, that he trusts his own game, he trust the way we play.”

For Salo, his NHL journey started with a call-up while the New York Islanders dealt with COVID-19. He had just come to North America this season from Sweden, and the transition took some time to get used to.

Through his 13 games at the NHL level, there have been some weak performances, some strong performances, key mistakes, and key decisions as he learns what it takes to become an everyday NHL player.

Against the Washington Capitals last Saturday, Salo and Josh Bailey took the same man which allowed Tom Wilson to be as wide-open as he was on the opening tally of the game and the eventual game-winner.

But what should be a positive sign is that his mistake did not sit with him when the puck dropped against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

He was a key contributor to the Islanders’ second goal of the game, as Casey Cizikas deflected his point shot in the high slot to make it 2-0.

When the contest was all said and done, that Cizikas tally served as the game-winner. Also, Robin Salo led the Islanders in 5-on-5 ice time with 16:53 minutes played.

“I think the strength of his game is, is he saw the Zeeker (Cizikas) score yesterday, that he has a lot of poise,” Trotz said.  “Up top, he’s got good lateral movement, and he finds those lanes.”

Salo built on his strong performance Monday as on Tuesday’ against those same Flyers, Salo notched his first career NHL goal, as he picked up points in back-to-back nights for the first time in his young NHL career.

“Really good feeling and honestly even better feeling that we won the game,” Salo said following the win on Tuesday regarding his milestone. “Obviously it feels good to play.”

“It’s a tough League. I feel like it took some time to get used to but feel like just trying to build some confidence and trying to play a better role.”

Every player goes through growing pains, in every sport, in every league. But it’s what you learn from those mistakes that allows you to better yourself and, in turn, strengthen your team.

Unless things change, Pulock will be out until after the All-Star break, which gives Salo at least eight more games to learn as much as possible.

With the way Zdeno Chara and Noah Dobson have settled in with one another, there’s no real spot for Salo to remain in the lineup when Pulock returns.

That has nothing to do with the way he’s played. It’s just the reality of the situation with such a veteran team.

But that does not mean a demotion to Bridgeport is on the horizon for Salo.

Yes, Salo can go down to Connecticut, play big minutes on a nightly basis, and dominate the AHL.

But with the veteran leadership in the Islanders locker room in Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, and 2022 All-Star Adam Pelech, Salo has an opportunity to continue to practice and learn.

And that value of that opportunity is immeasurable to Salo’s growth.

Robin Salo has a goal and two assists in 13 games played this season in 17:26 minutes per game.

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