The good news keeps coming for the New York Islanders.
One of their most valuable defensemen in Adam Pelech, who went down with an Achilles injury in January, will be available to return as soon as team facilities are able to open, Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello said on Wednesday afternoon.
“Adam is allowed to participate… as if the injury never took place,” Lamoriello said. “There’s no question his value to this team.”
“We will have every player available to us,” he added, which means the likes of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will be at full strength come July.
The 25-year-old Pelech was continuing his development as a legitimate top-pairing stay-at-home defenseman in the 38 games before his injury, posting nine points, a plus-4 rating, and a defensive points share of 2.2.
After what was described as a “freak” injury during warmups shortly after New Year’s Day, the Islanders’ defense — which was the NHL’s best last season — took a nosedive.
In the games Pelech played in, the Islanders conceded an average of 2.63 goals per game. In the 30 games without him, before play was suspended on March 12, that number shot up to 3.1.
While it might not seem like an enormous difference, it’s dramatic for an Islanders team that is one of the worst goal-scoring units in the NHL — and it showed in the standings.
The Islanders went 25-10-3 with Pelech in the lineup and were one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. After his loss, they went 10-13-7 to drop to seventh in the conference based on points percentage.
It earned them a play-in matchup with the No. 10 Florida Panthers in the best-of-five series to move on to the more traditional Eastern Conference quarterfinals — a format that was confirmed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday.
“In my opinion and league have done a tremendous job in coming up with the best possible scenario they could to satisfy all the individual situation of each team barring none,” Lamoriello said. “I’m totally supportive of what the results were and just excited that we have a template to get back.”
Lamoriello was also able to confirm that construction on the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park resumed on Wednesday morning, exactly two months after on-site work was stopped due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is still on schedule for its October 2021 opening, too.
“We were ahead of schedule when this all took place,” Lamoriello said. “And I don’t believe there will be any hiccups.”