Adam Pelech and Casey Cizikas made their return from lengthy injury absences look seamless as the Islanders opened camp on Monday.
“They looked like they’ve been playing an 82-game schedule,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re probably leading the pack with the excitement they have on the ice. They practiced really well.”
Pelech, the Islanders’ best shutdown defenseman, suffered what was thought to be a season-ending Achilles tendon injury during pregame, off-ice warmups on Jan. 2.
Cizikas’ left leg was lacerated by a skate blade on Feb. 11. The sparkplug fourth-line center missed 13 games before the season was paused on March 12 because of COVID-19.
“When everything happened in March, that was kind of a turning point where we figured that I might have a chance to play again depending on how this plays out,” Pelech said. “I’ve been feeling good for a couple of months now. I feel 100% on the ice.”
“The leg is doing well,” Cizikas said. “I had that extra time, which helped me a lot to get that strength back and get that power back in it.”
When he saw blood seeping through his hockey sock and he could not put pressure on his leg, Cizikas said he was momentarily frightened before team doctors calmed him.
Pelech said his injury was a “freak accident” that could have happened as he walked down the street. He’s not sure yet whether he’ll alter his pre-game routine.
Goalie Jakub Skarek, Nick Leddy, Leo Komarov, Kieffer Bellows and Sebastian Aho did not participate in either of Monday’s two sessions. Trotz, bound by restrictive new NHL guidelines on reporting absences, could only say they were “unfit to play. Our group will be growing shortly.”
Skarek, goalie Christopher Gibson, defensemen Aho and Grant Hutton, and forwards Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom were added to the 34-player training camp roster from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.