New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said that defenseman Adam Pelech is “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury Thursday morning after leaving Tuesday’s loss against the St. Louis Blues early.
Pelech suffered the injury at the 4:05 mark of the third period when — while trying to play the puck on one knee behind the Islanders’ net — he was crunched into the boards by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. Pelech’s head was the first to make contact with the lower portions of the boards while his leg curled awkwardly beneath him.
He held his head and was visibly woozy before being helped off the ice by a trainer and forward Josh Bailey. Lambert added that there was no lower-body issue.
While the head coach chose not to confirm whether or not Pelech is able to go for Friday night’s game against the Devils in New Jersey, all signs obviously point to him not playing.
Robin Salo worked with the Islanders at morning skate on Thursday to indicate that he will step in for Pelech while he recovers. The 24-year-old appeared in four games this season — his last on Oct. 20 — before losing out on the team’s No. 6 defenseman role to Sebastian Aho.
“Just starting to be ready, I try to be ready all the time,” Salo said. “I’ll be ready to get my chance.”
It’ll force Pelech’s long-time defensive partner, Ryan Pulock, to make a few adjustments to his game.
“Just defensively, being sharper with communicating with him not being in as much recently and us not having a lot of work together in the past,” Pulock said. “We have to talk it out. Where with Pelly, we kind of know each other’s tendencies and know what we have to do and we don’t have to talk as much. So we just have to simplify things by talking more and not complicating things as much.”
“[Pulock] is a great D-man,” Salo added. “He’ll do a great job helping me out there. If I play with him, it’s an honor.”
Pelech’s expected absence couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for the Islanders. The Devils are the No. 1 team in the NHL right now at 24-4-1 with 96 goals scored which rank third-best in the Eastern Conference. After a meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, New York heads to Boston to face a Bruins team that ranks No. 2 in the NHL with 100 goals scored this season.
“What we want from [Salo] is a good first pass, good breakouts,” Lambert said. “Make sure to maintain his gaps and play strong defensively.”