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Isles defenseman Robin Salo may not have spot after COVID pause

Robin Salo of the New York Islanders skates

Robin Salo of the New York Islanders skates during practice at UBS Arena on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 in Elmont. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s unclear how many of their top six defensemen other than the injured Ryan Pulock the Islanders will have available whenever they resume their season after a COVID-19 outbreak. So there might no longer be an immediate spot for Robin Salo.

But in his first North American season, the Finnish rookie has shown flashes during his four NHL games as a fill-in for the COVID-19 and injury-depleted Islanders to indicate he’ll eventually be a regular.

"I think he’s a bright young defenseman who will probably be a part of the organization for a number of years," coach Barry Trotz said before the Islanders’ season was temporarily halted.

Monday marked the second day of the Islanders’ COVID-19 pause, with Wednesday being the earliest they could resume practicing. That’s provided there are no new positive tests within the organization for three straight days, starting Sunday.

Neither the NHL nor the Islanders have made any announcements of additional positives since the NHL announced on Saturday — after Casey Cizikas became the eighth player to test positive — that it was postponing Sunday’s game against the Rangers at MSG and Tuesday night’s road game against the Flyers. The Islanders are next scheduled to play the Sharks on Thursday night at UBS Arena.

No new announcements of additional positive tests is not necessarily an indication one way or another because making such news public while the Islanders’ season is on pause is not mandatory.

  It’s believed there have been no new positive tests thus far.

In addition to Cizikas, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows and defensemen Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara have tested positive. Bailey, the first to test positive on Nov. 16, resumed skating with the Islanders on Saturday, the team’s last practice before being shut down.

Three unidentified non-playing members of the organization also tested positive. All members of the organization have been vaccinated.

The last-place Islanders, who have lost eight straight, played without five of their top six defensemen in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers at UBS Arena this past Wednesday. Noah Dobson, who missed that game with a lower-body issue, joined Scott Mayfield as the only top-six defensemen in the lineup for Friday’s 1-0 loss to the visiting Penguins.

The 6-2, 192-pound Salo, a second-round pick in 2017 who spent the previous two seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, has gone without a point and is a minus-4 in his four games. But he has shown the offensive instincts and puck-moving skills the Islanders have lacked after trading Devon Toews and Nick Leddy in successive offseasons.

"There’s a lot of things he does when he’s distributing the puck," Trotz said. "He makes really good decisions . . . Some of the things where you can tell he’s a young player are, when things get a little hairy, he starts to follow people . . . There’s not the poise that a Pelech would have. You grow into that."

New York Sports