Kyle Palmieri fights through injury absences to give Islanders a spark
It was a notable 10 straight games in the Islanders’ lineup on Friday night for Kyle Palmieri. And while his attendance has been far from perfect this season, that type of continuity has bolstered both the team’s productivity and Palmieri’s mindset.
It certainly beats sitting out 27 of 28 games with an upper-body injury, as Palmieri did before returning to the ice.
“I don’t know if frustrated is the word,” the right wing from Smithtown said. “Just kind of getting impatient. Some things take time and sometimes there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.”
The Islanders opened a crucial stretch of seven straight games leading into the March 3 NHL trade deadline against teams currently holding playoff positions by facing the Penguins at UBS Arena on Friday night. The Islanders are also at Pittsburgh on Monday night after visiting the NHL-leading Bruins on Saturday.
The Islanders carried a three-game losing streak into Friday night’s match, with Palmieri scoring his second goal since returning in a 6-5 loss to the visiting Canucks on Feb. 9 that started the skid. He had five primary assists in his first four games back in the lineup and put together a five-game point streak.
Overall, Palmieri entered Friday with eight goals and eight assists in 30 games.
“He’s sparked our team,” coach Lane Lambert said.
Lambert stuck Palmieri on Brock Nelson’s second line as he returned from his injury and Palmieri has been a big part of the career-high 11-game point streak Nelson brought into Friday’s match. Lambert did alter the line’s composition against the Penguins, moving captain Anders Lee to Bo Horvat’s top line with Mathew Barzal and placing Zach Parise on Nelson’s left wing.
“Anybody who gets time interrupted with injuries — whatever it might be — it kind of puts a little bit of a wrench into your season,” Lambert said. “But you just have to pick up and he's done a really good job of when he was out staying positive and then working himself back in. And that's why he's had such a good start since he's come back.”
Palmieri was initially hurt in a neutral-zone collision with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly — who almost missed significant time with a knee injury as a result — early in the third period of the Islanders’ 3-2 overtime win in Toronto on Nov. 21. Palmieri missed 10 games before returning on Dec. 16 in Arizona.
But Nick Ritchie smashed Palmieri into the wall with a high hit midway through the third period of the Islanders’ 5-4 loss and Palmieri retreated to the team’s dressing room and missed the next 17 games.
“It’s hard,” Palmieri said. “You just kind of try and stay in the moment. You don’t focus on, ‘Oh, it’s been six weeks or eight weeks.’ It’s just kind of wake up and try and do whatever you can to get yourself healthy and be ready to play. Some things are a little out of your control.”
It was a lengthy, slow recovery period as Palmieri started skating on his own and then spent more than two weeks working and traveling with the team before being able to rejoin the lineup.
“I tried to take it day by day as best as I could,” Palmieri said. “As you kind of build your way back into, whether it was practice or doing things around the team more, you start to get a little more impatient and you want to get out there and just play. But I had to be smart about it and make sure I was ready. Now I feel good and healthy. So hopefully I just continue that.”