The New York Islanders were already shorthanded on defense with shutdown stalwart Adam Pelech landing on long-term injured reserve over the weekend. Now things are going from bad to worse. On Monday morning, they placed defenseman Sebastian Aho on IR, retroactive to Nov. 24, with an upper-body injury.
Believe it or not, Aho was injured just 40 seconds after Pelech in the first period of Friday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators. It happened when Aho crashed awkwardly into the boards.
Aho, 27, was functioning in a depth role for the Isles this season, averaging 14:11 per game as a stay-at-home presence, tallying four assists in 19 games. Last season marked a mini-breakout for him; he played a career-high 71 games and had five goals and 23 points, while the Islanders generated 53.56 percent of the 5-on-5 scoring chances with him on the ice. He has struggled this season, however; the Isles get only 44.08 percent of the 5-on-5 chances with him out there. Only Scott Mayfield has a worse on-ice percentage among regular Isles D-men. They have been outscored 9-5 with Aho on the ice at 5-on-5.
According to Stefen Rosner of NHL.com, GM Lou Lamoriello has indicated Aho won’t be out as long as Pelech, hence Aho being placed on IR and not LTIR.
Given the retroactive designation for Aho and the fact he must miss at least seven days from that date, the earliest he can return from his injury is Dec. 2 against the Florida Panthers.
In the meantime, the Islanders will try to get by without two of their top six defensemen and their No. 1 penalty killer in Pelech. They claimed Mike Reilly off waivers from the Florida Panthers over the weekend. Reilly, like Pelech and Aho, is a left shot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he earns some heavy usage on his new team right away.