TORONTO — Kyle Palmieri’s injury-plagued two months started at Scotiabank Arena with a third-period, neutral-zone collision with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly.
So there was symmetry to the right wing finally returning to the lineup in the same building as the Islanders opened a two-game road trip on Monday night. But that was just half of the good news for the Islanders as top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech also returned from a lengthy absence.
Both were activated off injured reserve on Monday as right wings Hudson Fasching (lower body) and Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) were placed on injured reserve and defenseman Dennis Cholowski was returned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
Both Palmieri and Pelech were full participants in the Islanders’ morning skate, with Palmieri being inserted onto the top power-play unit and Pelech working with the penalty killers.
Their returns provided at least an emotional boost to the struggling Islanders, who entered Monday having lost four straight and in a 1-5-3 skid.
“It’s great,” said Anthony Beauvillier, who scored the overtime winner in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 21. “They’ve been out for so long. We’ve seen them at the rink having some tougher days. Then seeing them do well and being part of the group on the road with us, it’s always great. Pelly just had a great stick on the PK as I was trying to make a play. I looked around and I was like, ‘All right, it’s got to be him.’
“It’s good to have them back.”
Pelech was sidelined for the 21 games after being knocked into the boards by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the third period of the Islanders’ 7-4 loss at UBS Arena on Dec. 6. Pelech was clearly dazed after the hit, holding his head in his hands as he was escorted to the team’s room.
Palmieri initially missed 10 games after colliding with Rielly, who missed 15 games with an injured left knee. Palmieri returned for a 5-4 loss in Arizona on Dec. 16 but retreated to the Islanders room midway through the third period after absorbing a hard hit from Nick Ritchie.
“Palms is a great player,” Beauvillier said. “He’s part of the puzzle for sure. Whenever he’s in, it brings speed, it brings some grit. He just brings us a little more depth.”
Palmieri’s extended absence was just part of the injury problems that have affected the Islanders’ depth at forward. In addition to Fasching and Clutterbuck, Oliver Wahlstrom (lower body) is out indefinitely. Plus, Simon Holmstrom also missed six games from Dec. 27-Jan. 6 with a lower-body injury.
Palmieri worked on the left half-wall on a first power-play unit that also included defenseman Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anders Lee.
The Islanders entered Monday’s game in a 3-for-54 power-play rut. It’s a key reason they had scored just 15 goals over their previous nine games.
“Palms is just a threat,” Barzal said. “It’s been tough with guys out. Pelly is such a key part. With Palms going out, we realized how good he is for us. He’s a guy that can score, which we’ve obviously had a bit of an issue doing lately. He’s got a great shot and it’s going to be nice to have him inserted back into the lineup.”
Palmieri, of Smithtown, is in the second season of a four-year, $20 million deal and had six goals and three assists in his first 21 games. One goal and one assist came on the power play.
Pelech, an All-Star last season, had three goals and eight assists in his first 27 games.