The good vibes following Thursday night's 7-3 win over Columbus were dampened on Friday afternoon as the New York Islanders announced that defenseman Ryan Pulock was placed on injured reserve (IR) with a lower-body injury. With the team already down Sebastian Aho and Adam Pelech, GM Lou Lamoriello acquired 34-year-old defenseman Robert Bortuzzo from the St. Louis Blues for the team's seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Pulock blocked Zach Wrenski's shot from the point off his right leg late in the second period but returned for the third period. He was on the ice for Bo Horvat's first goal in the third period but didn't play the final 8:14 of the game after taking one last hit before Horvat's second goal.
The 29-year-old defenseman had two goals and four assists in 25 games this season after playing all 82 regular season games a year ago. As the blue line dealt with injuries to Scott Mayfield and later Aho and Pelech, the remaining regular defensemen have been logging more minutes, with Pulock averaging 22:47 TOI this season, up from his 21:08 career average. Aho has been skating with the team, including Wednesday's practice but was ruled out early for Thursday's game by head coach Lane Lambert.
Bortuzzo has been with the Blues since the 2014-15 season and was part of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 2018-19. He's played in just four games this season after scoring two goals and three assists in 43 games last year. Islanders fans might remember Bortuzzo from last season, as his hit on Pelech knocked the top-pair defenseman out of the lineup for 21 games.
The acquisition of Mike Reilly, Aho's timetable for return and Samuel Bolduc's growth all loom even larger as the defense deals with more adversity this season at a time when the team is still trying to figure out how to hold onto leads and close out games.
Bortuzzo is a veteran and a pro and should be excited for an opportunity to play regularly after being used sparringly with St. Louis this season as their seventh defenseman.