Kyle Palmieri had gone without a point in the previous 11 games before missing the last 10 games with a lower-body injury.
So no, the Islanders have not gotten the production they expected out of the Smithtown product when he signed a four-year, $20 million extension in the offseason.
But with more than half the season to be played, there’s still time for Palmieri to rewrite that narrative. The right wing was activated off injured reserve and dressed for Thursday night’s game against the Kings at UBS Arena, marking his first time in the lineup since Dec. 16, as the Islanders continued a seven-game homestand leading into the All-Star break.
"I try to put my finger on it but I thought we needed a little more impact from the position and the minutes that he was playing," coach Barry Trotz said. "I think he has that. When he’s at his best — and you saw it in the playoffs — he plays with a little bit of an edge."
Palmieri entered Thursday with a goal and six assists in 25 games as he averaged 16:17 of ice time. He had taken 57 shots, leaving his scoring percentage at a dismal 1.8%.
With Anders Lee out for the season, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired Palmieri and the now-retired Travis Zajac from the Devils on April 7, 2021, for the playoff push in exchange for a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst.
Palmieri scored at least 24 goals five times for the Devils, with a career high of 30 in 2015-16. He notched only two goals and two assists in 17 regular-season games for the Islanders but was one of their most consistent forwards through their postseason run to a second straight berth in the NHL semifinals. That included the overtime winner in Game 1 of their first-round series in Pittsburgh.
But after a promising start with two assists in the Islanders’ season-opening 6-3 loss at Carolina, Palmieri reverted to his previous regular-season form for his new team, scoring his only goal in a 6-1 loss at Florida on Nov. 16 to wrap up the season-opening 13-game road trip.
On Dec. 30, while Palmieri still was injured, Trotz said that based on his play, he would not necessarily go right back into the lineup when healthy.
But Trotz inserted Palmieri for Kieffer Bellows on Thursday as he continues to try to find the right combinations for his lines.
"He gets to the interior," Trotz said. "A nice little blend of a little bit of a power forward and sniper mentality. When he does that, I think he has a lot of impact and he can play a 200-foot game.
"He wasn’t getting a lot of production at the start of the year. He wasn’t the only one. We had a number of guys that weren’t. With the position we have him in or the impact he can make, there’s another level in his game. I know Palms, he’ll try to make an impact."
Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau said his frequent linemate has not shown signs of frustration despite his offensive struggles.
"We definitely need him to be healthy," Pageau said. "He’s a big part of the team. We all know what he can bring. He’s a guy that plays with urgency, that’s hard on pucks, that wins his battles.
"Not only defensively but offensively, he can bring his stuff. He’s definitely a guy that’s been missing for us. He’s going to be a big part of the push that we want to make."