For just about everyone on the Islanders, training camp began on Sep. 21. On that day, there was certainly a noticeable absence because Kyle Palmieri was not on the ice due to an undisclosed injury. It wasn’t until last Wednesday when Palmieri was on the ice for his first practice of training camp.
“Coming back and rehabbing and skating on your own and trying to prepare for a season is tough,” said the Long Island-born Palmieri. “And then to jump right into a training camp practice where these guys have been going full speed for two weeks was difficult. It took a couple of days to feel comfortable.”
The 32-year-old forward was limited to only 55 games and scored 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) last season due to multiple upper-body injuries. So, it was certainly a concern when he missed the start of camp. However, the good news is that Palmieri is ready to go as the Islanders open up their 2023-24 season on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres at UBS Arena.
The Islanders are chomping at the bit to get going on Saturday, which would be eight days after the end of their pre-season schedule. For Palmieri, the extended wait is actually a blessing in disguise as it gives him some extra practice time this week to get ready for opening night.
“For me, it’s huge,” said Palmieri. “I wanted to be healthy and be a full participant in practice. It took two weeks to do that. Luckily enough, I got into a pre-season game but for me being able to have this week of practice and really fine-tune some of the things that I missed early on in camp is nice.”
Despite the absence at the start of camp, Palmieri was able to get some game action in as he played in the Islanders’ pre-season finale against the Devils last Friday at UBS Arena. Palmieri had 14 minutes and 12 seconds of ice time and recorded two shots on goal in the Isles’ 3-0 loss. It was a good sign for the Islanders that he was back and able to play in a game.
And Palmieri has been sharp in practice.
“He looks good,” said Islanders Head Coach Lane Lambert. “He played well (in the pre-season finale). I thought he was one of our best players. He looks good in practice. The (extra) time helps him. There’s no question about it.”
And now Palmieri and the Islanders are ready to turn the page on the heartbreaking opening-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last season that culminated with an overtime loss in game six at home. While the loss can serve as motivation, the Islanders are looking ahead and not back.
“It’s a clean slate,” said Palmieri who was born in Smithtown. “We had to battle hard to get into the playoffs and we know it’s going to be the same way this year. We just want to get off to a good start, focus on those first couple of games, just feel good about our game and settle into a groove.”
While the Islanders will open the season with basically the same group, this year’s opening night roster could have as many as seven different players from the group that took the ice on opening night last year. The core group has won a lot of games, including playoff contests over the last few years, and there is still the belief that they could accomplish something special.
“We have faith in each other,” Palmieri told Greater Long Island. “We take a lot of pride in playing for each other in this room. We all think we give ourselves a good chance to win and I think top to bottom we’re ready to compete.”
As the Islanders get set to compete for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, they know they will face some stiff competition from the Sabres who finished just two points behind the Islanders last season. So, starting the season against the up-and-coming club from Western New York will be a good test for the Islanders right off the bat.
“They got a lot of firepower,” said Palmieri. “They’re a young team and I think for us it’s all about playing our game and doing what we can to try and make ourselves successful.”
For Kyle Palmieri, it was not a typical training camp with the absence due to injury. But now, he’s healthy and good to go for what the Islanders hope is a very successful season.
“It’s awesome,” said Palmieri. “Obviously, we’ve been working hard in camp here. We’re excited for Saturday.”
And so is all of Islanders Country!
Top: New York Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri (21) during the second period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday, April 28, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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