We'll learn later today what long-term ramifications, if any, are to Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho leaving last night's 5-3 win in Ottawa less than four minutes into the game and not returning. But before we do, we need first to recognize and applaud the way the remaining four defensemen played for 56 minutes last night against a talented Senators forward group to earn the win.
“I’ve never experienced that before where we’ve been down to four ‘D’ for pretty much the entire game," head coach Lane Lambert said after the game.
As soon as neither returned for the start of the second-period, it became evident that this was going to be a different type of game for the remaining four Islanders defenseman and the team was injury away from seeing which one of their forwards can skate backwards best.
With Aho and Pelech out, Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield each played over 26 minutes. For Dobson, the 31:05 was a career-high and the most by any Islanders defenseman since Adrian Aucoin logged 31:28 versus the New York Rangers on Jan. 13, 2004.
“It was an incredible effort,” Lambert reflected after the game. “We knew real early on in the game, what we were up against… They tried to keep it as simple as possible and manage their ice time as much as possible. I thought [Assistant Coach] Doug Houda did a good job of making sure that they kept their shifts short as possible as well. It was an incredible effort by the four of them.”
Samuel Bolduc is already up with the team as the seventh defenseman and would slide into one spot if either Aho or Pelech were to miss tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at UBS Arena. If both are out, the options at Bridgeport include Grant Hutton, Paul LaDue, Robin Salo, and Dennis Cholowski, each has spent time up with the Islanders in recent seasons.
If the organization's seventh and eighth defenseman are the depth chart are forced into action, you'd expect the same foursome to log heavy minutes again, but that task is a tall one to ask when playing back-to-back games and three games in four nights.