EAST MEADOW N.Y. — Kyle Palmieri’s first two full seasons with the New York Islanders was abbreviated by injuries. Out of a possible 164 games, he missed 40 of them, including 27 last season due to what was believed to be concussion issues.
For a player that averaged 26 goals per season from 2015-2020, he combined to score 31 over the last two years — not to mention just 10 in 51 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season when he was traded to New York by the New Jersey Devils.
“Sometimes there’s not a whole lot you can do about injuries,” Palmieri told amNewYork. “They come up. It’s a physical sport. Injuries happen. Hopefully, I’m on the other side of those major ones and can just move forward.”
The 32-year-old right-winger appears as though he’s doing just that, recording five points (two goals, three assists) in the Islanders’ first five games this season. But even the start of this season provided some uncertainty. He missed a considerable portion of training camp with an undisclosed injury that was picked up while training over the summer.
“It was kind of like cramming for the test as far as getting ready for the season,” Palmieri said. “I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. But I think as a line, we’re playing well. We’re creating a lot and when you give yourself a lot of looks, it’s more likely that some of them are going to go in.
The line he’s referring to is the Islanders’ second line of Palmieri on the right with Brock Nelson at center and Pierre Engvall on the left. The trio was New York’s most valuable unit down the stretch last season, helping it clinch a playoff berth, and has hit the ground running again in 2023-24. Their four goals are the most amongst any trio the Islanders have put forth during the early portions of the new year.
“From Day 1 I think that was the plan, to start us off together,” Palmieri said. “We had some familiarity and good chemistry from last year and we just want to continue that. We complement each other well as a line… It’s an easy fit. We’re able to create and make an impact on the game.”
Such an affluent partnership is providing the early promise of Palmieri returning to the goal-scoring form that made him an imposing threat with the Devils, headlined by a career-high 30 goals in 2015-16. Granted, there hasn’t been much doubt from Palmieri, himself, that he can get there as long as he stays on the ice.
“I definitely think [I can still be that kind of player],” Palmieri said. “I think it’s one of those things that injuries played a part in. I’ve felt good when I’m healthy and I feel like I’ve been bringing a positive impact on the team whether or not it shows up on the scoresheet. I don’t really look too much into [the stats]. I know what I’m capable of and I don’t put expectations on anything. I want to go out there every night and help my team win.”
Such sentiments echo the collective of the organization. A team that was built up through its defense and goaltending by Lou Lamoriello tabbed Palmieri as the quintessential two-way player who can excel at both ends on the ice — hence why they traded for him.
The veteran winger has undoubtedly shown his ability to bolster the team’s defensive presence. Now a fast-scoring start is bringing a boost that’s exciting the coaching staff.
“It’s a great positive for him and our hockey team,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s a key piece for our team. If you look at Palmieri every night, he just does the right things. He’s in the right spots defensively, plays hard offensively, and does a good job on the power play in front of the net. It’s good to see him healthy and see his confidence grow.”