Wednesday was a welcomed day of rest for the Islanders, who will again try to stave off elimination in their Stanley Cup first-round series against the Hurricanes in Friday night’s Game 6 at UBS Arena after winning 3-2 in Carolina on Tuesday night.
And perhaps nobody appreciated a brief break from the rough-and-tumble playoffs more than Alexander Romanov.
The hard-hitting defenseman is making a physical impact on the series despite missing the final five games of the regular season and Games 1 and 2 against the Hurricanes with what an NHL source told Newsday was a torn right labrum.
“He’s a tough kid,” Anders Lee said during the team’s media availability at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “Really tough. He plays the game hard. He plays it the right way and he’s pushing through. What he’s doing is extremely impressive and there’s a high pain tolerance coming from him.”
Romanov returned to the lineup for the Islanders’ 5-1 win in Game 3 in the first-ever playoff match at UBS Arena and he was a plus-3 with four hits while logging 15:25.
“I think he’s been good,” coach Lane Lambert said before Romanov logged 17:31 with another four hits in the Game 5 victory. “I thought his first game, he was really good. Strong down low in both games. He’s added that strength in those defensive-zone battles for us.”
For his part, Romanov has done a good job downplaying his physical situation, smiling and being his usual upbeat character in the dressing room.
Romanov quickly deflected a question before Game 5 about how he was feeling, instead stressing the Islanders’ back-to-the-wall situation in an elimination game.
“We haven’t got the time to grow, to get ready for the next game,” Romanov said. “For the next game, you should be ready today. I feel good.”
Lambert has been rotating his defensive pairs throughout the series, though Romanov typically starts on a pair with Noah Dobson. He also logged 1:43 as a penalty killer in Game 5 as the Islanders held the Hurricanes’ power-play to an 0-for-4 performance.
In general, the 23-year-old Romanov, acquired at the NHL draft for the 13th overall pick after two seasons with the Canadiens, has brought a steadier defensive and physical presence to the Islanders’ lineup than rookie Samuel Bolduc, who played the first two games.
“He’s been good,” Dobson said. “He worked really hard to get back. It’s not easy when you’re watching and missing games. He wants to be out there. He brings an element to our defense corps that, when he’s out, we miss. The games are tough out there, not a lot of space both ways, but he’s done a good job.”
Notes & quotes: While the Hurricanes also did not practice, coach Rod Brind’Amour told the media in Raleigh, North Carolina that Jack Drury did go on the ice on his own. The left wing missed Game 5 after being injured early in Game 4 when Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock boarded him.