Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews (34) and New York Islanders'...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews (34) and New York Islanders' Ryan Pulock (6) watch as the puck goes wide of Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin's (30) net during second-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – The objective hasn’t changed. Of course, the Islanders need to string together some victories.

But, perhaps, the Islanders, who came out of the eight-day All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, are now better equipped to do so. Stalwart defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech returned to the lineup from injuries for Monday night’s match against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena as the Islanders become more familiar with their new coach, Patrick Roy.

“I’m pleased with what I’ve seen,” Roy said of his 1-2-1 start after taking over for the fired Lane Lambert on Jan. 20. “I know we’re not a lot of games into this. But limiting the offensive team in our zone in those four games, we’re No. 1 in the NHL. I feel like this is a good sign. This is progression. This is something we think we can build on. There’s other things that need to be better. We need to cut down scoring chances against and our guys are aware of that.”

The Islanders resumed play four points out of a playoff spot as they chase the Flyers for third place in the tight Metropolitan Division while attempting to stay ahead of the Penguins, Devils and Capitals, all of whom were one point back on Monday.

“We have to get off to a good start,” Brock Nelson said. “For us, every game is crucial with how tight the Metro is. We talked about it a little bit before with Patrick, having a couple of games where we wanted to string together a few. It’s the same now coming out of the break.”

After cramming 13 games into 26 days in January, the Islanders have entered a more relaxed stretch of their schedule. Monday’s match marked their first since a 3-2 overtime loss to the Panthers at UBS Arena on Jan. 27 and was one of just four in 13 days leading into the Islanders Stadium Series outdoor game against the Rangers at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 18.

It’s probably an optimal scenario for easing Pulock and Pelech back into the lineup.

Pulock missed 24 games since suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 27.

Pelech, who missed 21 games last season with a head injury, made a relatively quick recovery after taking an illegal hit to the head from the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher on Jan. 25, which earned Gallagher a five-game suspension.

Because of the extended All-Star break, Pelech wound up missing only one game.

“I’m feeling good,” Pelech said. “The progress has gone well. It wasn’t great at the start, I wasn’t feeling too great. But I’ve gotten better every day.”

“They’re an important part of our team,” Roy said. “They’re both solid defensemen. For Pulock, he’s been out of the lineup for a good period of time. He’s going to need some adjustment, some time to feel comfortable on the ice.”

Roy opted to keep his top defense pair of Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov intact, allowing him to reunite Pelech and Pulock. The two were longtime partners before being split up last season to bolster Dobson and Romanov.

Pulock said being sidelined through a coaching change forced him to concentrate more on the games in order to pick up Roy’s new system. Being paired with Pelech just made his return that much more comfortable.

“Being out for eight weeks, to come back and if I play with him in my first game, he’s such a smart player that I think it would help me in those situations,” Pulock said. “We can rely on each other throughout the game. There’s going to be a little rust.”

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