Adam Pelech had waited a long time to get on the ice in an actual game for the New York Islanders.
Almost to the day six months ago, Pelech had torn his Achilles tendon while playing soccer pregame before the Isles were set to play the New Jersey Devils. The injury he suffered was supposed to force him to sit out for the rest of the season until the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world. That shutdown provided him with a possible chance at coming back.
Pelech, who rehabbed for months and was a full participant in the club’s Phase 3 training camp, made his highly-anticipated return last night in the Islanders’ only tune-up game before they begin their qualifying round matchup with the Florida Panthers Saturday afternoon.
The Isles were victorious 2-1 over the Rangers, and it was Pelech who looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.
“He looked just like him,” said teammate Andy Greene following the win.
Last night marked Greene’s first time playing with Pelech after he’d spent multiple years on a rival Devils squad.
“Playing against him for the last little bit here, you wouldn’t have known that was his first game in seven or eight months. He’s just steady back there. Really poised and just makes everything look easy.”
Pelech was paired back with his usual d-partner Ryan Pulock and showed exactly why he’s such a vital factor if the Isles are going to go far this summer. He played the sec shut down the Blueshirts’ Artemi Panarin similar to the same way he did the Pittsburgh Penguins’ stars last spring.
Panarin didn’t record a shot in over 22 minutes of ice time.
Credit is due to the entire D for that, but it was Pelech who saw the most of the Russian all evening.
Pelech is sure to get the same dose of heavy lifting against the Panthers top guns — Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mike Hoffman — but all indications from last night prove he’s ready for that challenge.
“He looked pretty set for the playoffs, which is a really good sign for us,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters via Zoom.
The Islanders got back to playing “Islander Hockey” with the help of Pelech being back in the lineup, which is a great sign moving forward. The playoffs are about low scoring, defensive style game. That fits right into the Isles’ wheelhouse. Pelech provides that much-needed presence with how he plays, and his impact is undeniable.
“Adam is appreciated in our market of what he does. When he went down, he left a pretty big hole in our lineup. He looked pretty seamless jumping in there,” Trotz added.
Pelech and the Isles are now on to Florida and their chase for the Stanley Cup. Last night looked like he didn’t miss a beat. And that’s exactly what anyone could have hoped for after such a long layoff.
Now let’s see what he has in store for an encore.