The New York Islanders struggling defense suffered another blow on Wednesday when it was revealed that top-pairing defenseman Ryan Pulock will miss four-to-six weeks after suffering a lower-body injury during Monday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The injury is believed to have stemmed from Pulock blocking a shot from Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph during the second period of a 4-1 loss — the shot striking his the foot and ankle area.
“Obviously, he’s a pretty good defenseman for us,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said after Monday’s game (h/t NHL.com). “That’s an area where we have to correct a little bit. It’s a hole, but we’re going to have to find ways to fill that hole… But we’ll have to do it as a group of five guys on the ice and a goaltender and go from there.”
The Islanders did not announce that Pulock and Josh Bailey, who entered league COVID protocols, were scratched from their game on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers — a 6-1 loss — until roughly 15 minutes before puck-drop.
Pulock’s loss provides a sizable hole in an Islanders defense that has already struggled mightily in recent days. During a four-game losing streak that ended their 13-game road trip, the Islanders were outscored 19-4. It was the first time since Trotz joined the Islanders as head coach that the team yielded four or more goals in four straight games.
The 27-year-old was averaging 21:07 of ice time per game this season, recording two assists in 12 games for a defense that has regressed since they traded Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings during the offseason.
It won’t be able to be replaced, but the Islanders will have to distribute the load amongst potential replacements during Pulock’s absence.
Sebastian Aho, who saw his first action of the season on Monday, will likely see regular playing time on the blue line. The Islanders also have veteran Thomas Hickey and top prospect Robin Salo, who has impressed in the minors so far this season, as potential in-house options to bide time should Lou Lamoriello begin scouring the trade market for more defensive support.