In what was a physical start to the series with the Carolina Hurricanes, the NY Islanders were without one of their most physical players on defense as Alexander Romanov remained out of the lineup with an upper-body injury.
On Tuesday, head coach Lane Lambert wouldn't rule out the 23-year-old defenseman, stating, "We'll see tomorrow," when asked about his status for Game 2 in Carolina. Romanov missed the final five games of the regular season after sustaining an injury in Tampa Bay when the Lightning's Corey Perry tackled him awkwardly down to the ice on Apr. 1.
With Romanov out, rookie Samuel Bolduc was recalled from Bridgeport and dealt with the expected ups and downs for a rookie defenseman. In Game 1, he struggled at times but hung tough in limited ice time. Overall, Bolduc took 15 shifts and played a team-low 8:51 on defense. Only Matt Martin (8:34) played less in Game 1.
Bolduc was benched in the third period against the Montreal Canadiens in the regular season finale after letting Nick Suzuki score a short-handed goal that put the game - and the Islanders playoff chances at risk. “Obviously, the games are going to be a bit more physical, I would say. Given my size, it's probably one part of the game I can handle very well," Bolduc said ahead of Game 1. "So yeah, just keep moving the puck quick and be physical, we me, an and everything will be fine.”
For Romanov, the injury came at an unfortunate time for the young defenseman in his first season with the Islanders after being acquired for the 13th pick overall at the 2022 NHL Draft.
In 76 games, Romanov had a career-best 22 points (2G, 20A) and had appeared to turn a corner where the game was slowing down for him, and he was settling into the team's structure. More often, we were seeing him using his skating ability to help the team in transition and making smart and decisive decisions with the puck.
All that and he'd still pick his spots for the big hit, something that would be a big hit at UBS Arena if he's able to return for a home game this series if not for Game 2 on Wednesday night.