NEWARK — Mike Reilly had one practice, some video review and some discussions with the coaching staff before his first game with the injury-depleted Islanders after the defenseman was claimed off waivers from the Panthers.
But the root fundamentals of hockey carry over from team to team so Reilly knew his job was not much different than his five previous NHL stops.
“I think the system is pretty straightforward,” Reilly said before the Islanders opened a three-game road trip against the Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center. “It’s similar to other teams’ systems in a way. There’s always some tweaks here or there. But they’ve done a good job communicating and I’ve talked to a couple of players if I have a question or two.”
The Islanders claimed the 30-year-old Reilly this past Saturday. He has also also played for the Wild, Canadiens, Senators and Bruins before signing a one-year $1 million deal this season with the Panthers. Saturday was the same day top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech was placed on long-term injured reserve — his earliest return could be Dec. 19 — after appearing to suffer an injury to his left wrist in Friday night’s 5-3 win in Ottawa.
Defenseman Sebastian Aho also suffered an upper-body injury in that win and was placed on injured reserve on Monday.
“The challenge is we should concentrate on playing a solid defensive game,” defenseman Alexander Romanov said. “We can play offense. But, first of all, we should play with confidence and concentration in our zone.”
The Islanders lost a 1-0 shootout to the Flyers this past Saturday with rookie Samuel Bolduc and Grant Hutton, called up from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, as the third defensive pair.
Reilly can be a puck-moving defenseman who will provide some veteran stability. But he could not crack the Panthers’ top six on a regular basis and played just two games for them — Tuesday marked his first game since Nov. 8 — without a point.
The Islanders conclude this trip against the Panthers this coming Saturday.
“Yeah, it didn’t go as expected,” Reilly said. “I know they had two defensemen out at the start of the year and there was going to be some good runway there to start. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work great. It’s tough it didn’t work out but I got this opportunity now.”
Reilly, a fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2011, played a career-high 70 games for the Bruins in 2021-22 with four goals and 13 assists. Islanders president/general manager Lou Lamoriello said the team was familiar with Reilly stemming from his play in a physical six-game win over the Bruins in the second round of the 2021 playoffs.
“He looks awesome,” Romanov said. “He’s pretty skilled. A fast guy and he’s got a shot. I like the way he plays.”
Reilly’s 90-game stint with the Canadiens did not coincide with Romanov’s time in Montreal. But there were plenty of familiar faces in the Islanders’ room for Reilly. He was teammates with Jean-Gabriel Pageau with the Senators and Reilly knows the Islanders’ large Minnesota contingent, most notably Brock Nelson and Hudson Fasching.
“You feel more comfortable coming in,” Reilly said. “It feels like you don’t have to walk on eggshells just based off knowing a couple of guys.”
One of Reilly’s closest friends in the NHL is former Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, now with the Blues.
But wearing Leddy’s old No. 2 is not an homage.
“I walked in [Sunday] and dropped my bag off and I already had No. 2,” Reilly said. “It’s kind of funny. I gave him a text after I found out.”