EAST MEADOW — New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau returned to the ice on Monday morning to take part in his first skate with the team since Feb. 11 against the Montreal Canadiens. He had missed the previous nine games with an upper-body injury that landed him on injured reserve.
Pageau has not been activated off IR as of yet, which is why the Islanders have not made a corresponding roster move to make the necessary space for him.
“It’s a huge boost,” captain Anders Lee said. “He’s such a dynamic player and we utilize him in so many different positions and he’s so solid in so many spots…
“That’s a big piece coming back into our lineup.”
The 30-year-old, now in his third full season with the Islanders, has become a staple on the third line and an invaluable two-way forward that is one of their better penalty killers.
In 56 games this season, he’s recorded 10 goals and 19 assists.
“He does a lot,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “He’s one of those guys that’s always in the right spots in the D-zone, he’s really good down low to help out, and he doesn’t lose his man in coverage too often.. He’s a big part of the things we do.”
During his absence, head coach Lane Lambert has been forced to shuffle his lines — though losing first-line forward Mathew Barzal certainly didn’t help that situation, either.
In recent games, the Islanders have been forced to promote two-thirds of their fourth line in Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas to the third unit to play alongside right-winger Simon Holmstrom, who was unseated from the first line after Pierre Engvall was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During line rushes Monday morning, Pageau cycled in on the fourth line with center Otto Koivula and took part in the penalty kill.