Just when the Islanders thought they were out, the injuries pulled them back in.
This time, it was Alexander Romanov, one of just two defensemen in the opening-night lineup who had yet to get hurt, who missed Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Flames at UBS Arena, the Islanders citing a lower-body injury and calling him day-to-day.
Sebastian Aho drew into the lineup alongside Noah Dobson, skating 18:23 in his first game since before the All-Star break.
He was minus-1 thanks to being on the ice for MacKenzie Weegar’s goal at 15:16 of the second when Walker Duehr flubbed a shot and Weegar took advantage by one-timing the puck in.
“I thought he did OK,” coach Patrick Roy said of Aho. “But that third goal was simply bad luck for him.
“Could he be faster in that passing lane? Probably yes. But he was out of the lineup, back in, sometimes it’s not that easy. But he’s a great kid, works hard, showed a lot of work in our practice. We felt he deserved to be in that lineup facing Rommy.”
The last thing the Islanders needed, so soon after Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock returned, was Romanov or Dobson to go down. With all four of them in the lineup — something that has been rare this season — the Islanders have two top pairs they can be comfortable rolling out against any line. Without, there are gaps in their defense.
Semyon Varlamov hit a milestone Saturday with his 600th career appearance.
But he allowed three goals on 22 shots in his first start since Jan. 27, including Weegar’s wrist shot off the rush 3:47 into the game, which should have been stopped.
“He just beat me far side,” Varlamov said. “Low blocker. I gotta watch the replay.”
Roy, who had over 1,000 appearances of his own in nets as a player, refused to throw blame on the netminder.
“You will never hear me saying negative things about our goaltenders,” Roy said. “They’ve been so good for us all year. And Varly made the saves that he had to make at some point. Would he like to get the first one back? It’s up to him to decide. But on my side, I will always be behind our goalies.”
Roy left open the possibility of keeping Pierre Engvall on the top line after trying him with Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal during the third period.
“I need to know and there’s things that I’m gonna try at times,” he said. “I thought that having Engvall with Bo and Barzy added a little more speed to that line.”