NY Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo has slowly worked his way back from injury

Los Angeles Kings v New York Islanders
Los Angeles Kings v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Slowly, but not always surely, New York Islanders defenseman has worked his way back to health and was activated off LTIR on Friday ahead of the team's back-to-back matinee games this weekend.

Bortuzzo skated in his first full practice yesterday since a lower-body injury versus the Avalanche on Jan. 2 in Colorado which forced him to miss 28 games. He had been skating on his own and appeared to be nearing a return last month when he suffered a set back, further delaying his return.

Acquired from the St. Louis Blues, where he played for 10 seasons, for a seventh-round draft pick on Dec. 9th, Bortuzzo played in 11 games as the Islanders were down regular defensemen Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and, for a time, Sebastian Aho.

Along with Mike Reilly, who was claimed off waiver, the 34-year-old and 2019 Stanley Cup winner provided a reliable and physical defensive presence while the blue line got healthier. Overall, in 15 games this season, Bortuzzo has averaged 13:40 TOI without registering a point, but his job is to log third-pair minutes and support the penalty kill.

"It's not easy when you're grinding away, and we've been on the road a lot too, and you're trying to get back and rehab," said Noah Dobson after Bortuzzo after Friday's practice. "It's not easy, but he shows up every day with a great attitude, and he's a great guy to be around. So really happy to see him back out there. And hopefully, we'll have him back here soon."

With Scott Mayfield likely out for the remainder of the regular season, Bortuzzo could be a candidate for Patrick Roy to play ahead of Aho down the stretch of the season, as he's expected to be ahead of young defenseman Samuel Bolduc, who recently wrapped up a conditioning stint in Bridgeport, on the depth chart.