There was a new face on the ice for the Islanders at Friday’s late-afternoon practice — someone who, at least at one point, figured to be a major part of the organization.
Michael Dal Colle, who was the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2014 draft (fifth overall), was called up on an emergency basis Thursday and will make his NHL debut against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Dal Colle, who has five goals and 13 assists and is a minus-1 in 34 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, will suit up because Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd will not play Saturday. Coach Doug Weight would not elaborate on the condition of Bailey or Ladd, saying only that he hopes they’re back “sooner than later.”
Both Bailey (lower body) and Ladd (undisclosed) last played Jan. 5. Johnny Boychuk (lower body), who last played Dec. 27, also will not play Saturday, Weight said.
What seemed certain after Friday’s practice was that Dal Colle will play. Less certain was how much. That’ll be up to Dal Colle, Weight said.
“He could get north of 13, 14, or 15 [minutes] or he could get six,” Weight said at Northwell Health Ice Center. “He can dictate that. I’m sure he’s going to work. But I expect him to play.
“It’s a road game. You can’t have people on the ice in certain situations if you don’t trust them. So he has to earn my trust. But he’s a smart hockey player. His work ethic and hockey IQ is really good. He’s played in a lot of situations he hadn’t played in juniors and he’s excelled at it at the AHL level. I expect Mike to do a good job. I’m excited for him.”
Dal Colle said he found out after practice that he would step on the ice for the first time in an NHL game. “It’s what you dream of as a kid,” he said. “It’s a very happy time for me and my family.”
Despite the excitement, Dal Colle is very aware that to stay on the ice, he must play to expectations.
“I just want to play the same way I’ve been playing,” he said. “It’s about being good in my own end and hopefully creating some offense. I just want to play my game and hopefully have a good debut.”
Weight said Dal Colle’s play has drawn compliments from observers in Bridgeport.
“His numbers should be better than what they are is what the message was [from Bridgeport],” Weight said. “Mike has worked hard. He hasn’t come in torching and ripping it up, but he’s consistently gotten better.”
The fact that he’ll be thrown right into the Islanders-Rangers rivalry was not lost on Dal Colle.
“Everybody knows about that rivalry ever since you start watching hockey,” he said. “To have a debut in that game is going to be pretty exciting.”