Ryan Pulock Says Return Is "A Work In Progress"

The New York Islanders face insurmountable odds of sneaking into the postseason, but they're at least going to have Ryan Pulock along for the ride.

The standout shutdown defenseman missed nearly three months of action with a lower-body injury, finally returning to the ice in the team's 4-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 1.

Following last week's 3-0 loss to the Seattle Kraken, Pulock stressed that it will take some time to get himself back into a rhythm following a long period away from the ice.

"It's just been a matter of trying to get into shape and it's been tough with all the games we played and not really having much practice time," Pulock said, per Ethan Sears of the New York Post. "Found a way and it's gonna be a work in progress for me to continue to get to my best game. I gotta find it here right now...(I) have this break to continue to improve my game. And be ready to go out of the break."

The Islanders reached the 2020 and 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on both occasions.

But their Stanley Cup odds, compared to the state rival Rangers, have dropped considerably since the start of the season in New York betting Apps.

The Islanders sit at 16-17-6 coming out of the All-Star Break. They are 17 points behind the Boston Bruins final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. So it's going to take a magical second half and a major Bruins' collapse of some sort for the Isles to claim a fourth straight playoff berth.

Evgeni Malkin Enters COVID-19 Protocol

The Pittsburgh Penguins will likely be without one of their superstar centers for at least a game, and possibly longer.

On Monday, the Penguins announced that forward Evgeni Malkin has been placed on the league's COVID-19 protocol. Pittsburgh returns to action on Tuesday night with a road game against the Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. EST).

Malkin missed the first three months of the 2021-22 season recovering from offseason knee surgery. He debuted against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 11, notching two goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory.

The 35-year-old Malkin has five goals and eight assists in 12 games. Though the Penguins haven't had him for the majority of the season, they're once again among the NHL's top teams with 62 points (27-11-8).

Pittsburgh will continue their road trip with a meeting against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7:00 p.m. EST) before wrapping up against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (1:30 p.m. EST).

Jack Eichel May Soon Get Cleared For Contact

It's been three months since the Las Vegas Golden Knights swung a blockbuster trade for former Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel.

The No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft has yet to debut for his new team, as he continues to recover from artificial disk replacement surgery (it was performed on Nov. 12).

On Friday, Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer stated that Eichel could be cleared for contact very soon.

"The doctor was adamant that three months from surgery there be absolutely no contact, and I believe that's this week," DeBoer said, via Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "So I think coming out of this break that's going to be on the table about starting contact."

Eichel missed most of the 2020-21 season with the Sabres. He played his final game for the franchise on Mar. 7, 2021 against the New York Islanders.

The 25-year-old finished 2020-21 with two goals and 16 assists in 21 games. For his career, Eichel has 139 goals and 355 points in 375 NHL games.

Vegas entered the All-Star Break with the best record in the Pacific Division (27-16-3). Scoring hasn't been a problem whatsoever, but the addition of Eichel can only bolster a team that hasn't had a bonafide star center since their inception four years ago.

The Golden Knights are in a tight race with the Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers for tops in the Pacific Division. But with Eichel getting close to a return, Vegas has to be considered the favorites to lock up the division crown.