Ryan Pulock will determine the timetable for his long-awaited return to the Islanders’ lineup.
The top-pair defenseman, still on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury, rejoined his teammates for the morning skate on Thursday before the Islanders lost to the Kings, 3-2, at UBS Arena.
How that translates into being able to play in a game is "really a question for the player," coach Barry Trotz said. Pulock missed his 23rd game.
"That’s really the player’s decision," Trotz said. "He’ll know how comfortable he feels. Where his conditioning is. I will have an observation. But really, it’s going to end up being a player’s decision saying, ‘I feel like I’m ready to go.’ Then it’s in my court. I’m not there yet."
Pulock, who has been skating on his own, initially was expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering the injury on Nov. 15.
He may be hard pressed to find practice time with the Islanders, who began a stretch of four games in six days leading into the All-Star break. So it may be more plausible to project his return to come after the break.
The Islanders will resume the season with a four-game road trip starting in Vancouver on Feb. 9. Presumably, Pulock will make that trip.
For now, Jean-Gabriel Pageau said it was encouraging just to have Pulock skating with the team again.
"It’s amazing," Pageau said. "He’s a big part of this team. He’s a great guy to be around. Just to see him skate with us today after all the hard work that he’s put in, day in and day out, to come back, it’s big. Everyone was happy to see him. Everyone had a smile on their face."
Drew Doughty, a former Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman and a two-time Stanley Cup champion, logged 24:29 with three shots as he played in his 1,000th regular-season game. All have come with the Kings, who selected him second overall in 2008.
"He plays against the team’s best and suppresses offense for the opposition and he drives the offense," Trotz said. "He is a leader. He has impact every night."
Doughty, who turned 32 last month, said reaching this milestone doesn’t mean he’s in the twilight of his career.
"I’m very proud to play this many games," he said. "I don’t know if I’ll get another 1,000. I feel great. I feel younger than I am."
Doughty is the first player from the 2008 draft class to reach 1,000 games. The Islanders’ Josh Bailey, picked ninth that year, is next after playing in his 950th game . . . Forward Austin Czarnik (upper body) was placed on injured reserve . . . The Islanders had their five-game home winning streak against the Kings snapped. That dated to 2014 . . . The Islanders allowed the winning goal on an empty-netter for just the second time in team history, per team statistician Eric Hornick . . . Defenseman Sebastian Aho, Ross Johnston and Kieffer Bellows were the healthy scratches . . . Linesman Mark Shewchyk worked the game alone with referees Wes McCauley and Dean Morton after linesman Travis Gawryletz tested positive for COVID-19.