Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech participated in his team’s optional morning skate ahead of its Thursday-night meeting with the Minnesota Wild at UBS Arena.
“He’s getting closer,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “Whatever that closer might be now that he’s back on the ice. That’s a big step for us.”
The top-pairing blue liner has missed the last 15 games after suffering an upper-body injury during a Dec. 6 game against the St. Louis Blues when a hit from Robert Bortuzzo led to a collision with his head against the boards.
“He eats up a lot of minutes, he plays in important situations and he plays against other teams’ top players,” Lambert said. “We’ve missed him a lot.”
His extended absence has forced the team to rely more heavily on the likes of younger, more unproven defensemen like Robin Salo, Sebastiano Aho, and Parker Wotherspoon to keep things afloat along the blue line.
While he’s only been one big name in a slew of injuries that have also included Kyle Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom, Pelech’s absence hasn’t helped an Islanders team attempting to keep pace in the loaded Metropolitan Division. Since his injury, the Islanders are 5-6-3 while yielding three or more goals in eight out of those 15 games without him.
Pelech still remains on injured reserve with no timetable as to when he will return to the ice, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his teammates that he’s back around the facilities.
“That’s provided some energy even today, just the morning skate with the guys,” veteran center Brock Nelson said. “It’s fun to see him out there… Getting him back would be huge and seeing that progression right now is a good sign for us.”