EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — The New York Islanders activated defenseman Adam Pelech off long-term injured reserve on Tuesday ahead of their matchup against the Vancouver Canucks.
The 29-year-old has missed the previous 20 games after suffering an upper-body injury when he awkwardly went into the boards following a hit by Drake Batherson of the Ottawa Senators just 2:23 into an Islanders 5-3 victory six weeks ago. Just one day later, he was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).
“He’s a key piece to our back end,” star defenseman Noah Dobson, who has seen a noticeable uptick in minutes during Pelech’s absence, said. “He plays a lot of situations, brings a lot of stuff back there. So it’s definitely a huge boost.”
As New York’s top defensive defenseman, Pelech’s absence has headlined a litany of injuries that have sapped its blueline resources. Ryan Pulock is also on LTIR while Robert Bortuzzo was placed on injured reserve last week.
Bortuzzo — along with fellow veteran defenseman Mike Reilly — were necessary acquisitions while the team also dealt with the lengthy injury absences of Scott Mayfield and Sebastian Aho; both of whom have since returned to action. Pelech took line rushes on Tuesday morning with Mayfield.
In 16 games this season, the nine-year veteran has three assists and a plus-6 rating. His return will help bolster a defense that has sagged this season — a far cry from their identity of the last five years — allowing the 11th-most goals in the NHL.
“He’s steady. He plays a pretty simple game,” Dobson said. “He doesn’t really find himself in trouble too much. His stick is one of his better assets. He breaks up a lot of plays. He just brings on the defensive side, especially, a calming influence.”