Following the Islanders’ morning skate on Wednesday, coach Lane Lambert was asked if he expected Kyle Palmieri, who had left the ice prior to special teams work, to play that night.
“I do, yeah,” Lambert said, adding that he thought Palmieri had an equipment issue.
It turns out Lambert was misinformed.
The Islanders later declared Palmieri day-to-day with an upper-body injury as the team took the ice for warm-ups against the Oilers, led by Simon Holmstrom, who made his NHL debut Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
Holmstrom, the 23rd-overall pick in 2019, skated on the top line with Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom as Josh Bailey went to the third line, on which Palmieri had played in Toronto on Monday.
Holmstrom skated for 11:11 in the 3-0 win, recording one blocked attempt in a mistake-free, but mostly quiet, debut. He said afterwards that he was informed around 11 am, just after the morning skate at AHL Bridgeport, then was ferried via car service to Long Island.
“It was just a very big surprise,” he said, “and I was just very happy and excited to get here and to play.”
Holmstrom, who failed to make much of an impression in training camp, had a slow start to his season at Bridgeport, with three goals and two assists over 15 games, but was evidently the first choice at forward in a prospect pool that also includes Aatu Räty, William Dufour and Ruslan Iskhakov, who was named AHL Rookie of the Month for October.
Although it’s not expected Holmstrom will stick in the NHL — he was called up via loan and the Islanders don’t have much reason to carry a 23rd player once Palmieri is healthy — the move is notable because of the players he was selected over. He also impressed both Lambert and his teammates with his poise amid a whirlwind situation.
“I thought he played very well,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “He’s a good guy who wants to always do his best. He had a good stick so many times today on the ice. Made some really nice passes. He was in the right spot. That’s hard to do, to keep your composure. He did that.”
Lambert clarified after the game that he hadn’t spoken to trainers before assuming Palmieri’s problem was an equipment issue. Asked when the injury occurred, his answer was unclear.
“He had that hit in Toronto obviously,” Lambert said. “He was fine as far as I was concerned. I was surprised. As surprised as you guys, I guess.”
The game was the Islanders’ first shutout against the Oilers since Feb. 25, 1996.