Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri playing best hockey at just the right time

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Kyle Palmieri has never stayed healthy for a full season with the Islanders and never scored 20 goals with the Islanders.

Right now, fingers crossed, he is on pace for both.

Heading into a pivotal four-game road trip that starts Thursday night against the Sharks, Palmieri is playing some of his best hockey of the year, with a three-game point streak that includes four goals and a hat trick.

Kyle Palmieri celebrates after scoring a goal during the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Blues. Getty Images

“Really just keeping it simple,” he said after Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Blues, in which he added his 19th goal of the season in the second period. “I think finding ways to get the puck at the net, try and get some open looks. I think as a line we’ve been working at finding those opportunities at making a difference in a game.”

Indeed it is not a coincidence that Palmieri started to get hot right around when Patrick Roy redid his lines, playing Anders Lee and Jean-Gabriel Pageau alongside Palmieri.

That trio has been arguably the best of the new combinations, which have helped propel the Islanders to tying their season-high of four straight wins.

All three players play a hard-nosed offensive game and can get to the net.

Turns out, that makes for a good fit.

In four games together, they have accounted for an exceptional 79.72 percent expected goals share, per Natural Stat Trick.

“That line has been on fire,” Roy said. “They connect really well, they play well together. Kyle, since I’ve been here, has probably been our best forward. He’s been really good and right now, Anders is playing well with Pager and him.

Kyle Palmieri battled for the puck during the Islanders' win over the Blues.
Kyle Palmieri battled for the puck during the Islanders’ win over the Blues. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“This is a very good line. I really like our lines. The way they play, they connect together, they work together, they support each other. I really love the way these guys are playing.”

Palmieri’s first two full seasons with the Islanders featured flashes like this.

But never over quite as long a period as anyone would have liked.

In 2021-22, Palmieri endured a rough first half of the season before doing almost all of his scoring in the second half.

Last season, a pair of long injury absences split an otherwise solid year.

This time, Palmieri is on pace to return to being the annual 25-goal scorer he was with the Devils, and just recorded four goals in two games for the first time since December 2018 with New Jersey.

Of the 19 he’s scored so far this year, eight have come since Roy took over as coach — tied with Brock Nelson for the most since then.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Bo Horvat said. “He’s taken his game to another level when we need it most, all around the rink. He’s making defensive plays, too. He’s scoring big goals and making plays. He’s definitely stepped up.”

Aside from the line combinations, it does not really feel like there is much different to point to for Palmieri to explain the recent uptick.

Rather, there is something different to point to for the Islanders, who are doing a much better job of just about everything, but getting pucks to the net and sustaining offensive possession are near the top of the list.

Palmieri, whose line has excelled at that and who can compete for rebounds around the crease, is well-positioned to take advantage.

“Obviously I don’t think it’s only about the points,” Pageau said. “I just think the way he’s competing, he’s winning all of his one-on-one battles. That’s what gives him a chance to have these opportunities and obviously he buries them. He’s been a key player since the start of the year and I feel now he’s taking it to another level.”

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