After Adam Pelech injured his Achilles last week, the top-pair defenseman was cropped out of the Islanders’ big picture for at least the rest of the regular season. So Ryan Pulock needed a new partner.
Barry Trotz started him out with rookie Noah Dobson against the Devils on Jan. 2, but the coach ended up doing a lot of mixing and matching in that 2-1 loss. Then Trotz put Nick Leddy with Pulock as the top pair for these last three games, and the Islanders won the last two.
The early reviews of their work together?
“Pretty darn good, actually,” Trotz said after Thursday’s practice in East Meadow.
The two complement each other — and compliment each other.
“I think Puls is an amazing player with his ability to think out there, his offensive instincts,” Leddy said. “His shot is obviously one of the hardest in the league. So that in itself is a great weapon. I think we complement each other well.”
Leddy is a lefty shooter and Pulock is righthanded. Leddy has a great asset that helps, too.
“I think obviously Nick skates so well, so I try to get him the puck when we’re in the d-zone and he can get you out of trouble,” Pulock said. “I think, myself, my defensive game has come a long way, and I try to defend hard and shut down the other team’s top lines.”
Pulock had chemistry with Pelech. The same went for Leddy with Johnny Boychuk, who has been opening with Dobson, although there has been some more mixing and matching with Dobson being eased in.
This is still an adjustment period for the top pair.
“I think whenever you change partners or are with someone new, communication is huge, whether it’s talking out on the ice or talking on the bench,” Leddy said. “Just trying to find each other’s tendencies. I mean, I’ve played with Johnny for so long now that I know his tendencies and I feel like we barely have to talk out there.”
Both Leddy and Pulock are former first-round picks, the 6-foot, 200-pound Leddy by Minnesota in 2009 and the 6-2, 217-pound Pulock by the Islanders in 2013. Leddy is 28; Pulock is 25. Each has played at least 23 minutes in the last three games. Each is plus-2, and they have a combined nine blocked shots in that span.
“We played a little bit together at the start of last year, but we haven’t played a ton together,” Pulock said. “… I think [we need to] just feed off each other, get comfortable with each other, because we’re going to be paired together, I’m sure, for a while.”
Notes & quotes: Trotz said Dobson may get some power-play time. “We’ve got to play to his strengths,” Trotz said. “He passes the puck. He’s got great vision. He’s got a poise about him. He sees lanes.” … Defenseman Sebastian Aho was returned to Bridgeport.