When the season is shot and the remaining games are of virtually no significance, which sadly is more often than not, the New York Islanders sometimes do this thing that probably builds goodwill internally and keeps the "family" vibe going: They give a "loyal soldier" his shot at the NHL.
The most recent case is Brett Gallant, who is being recalled from the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers with four games left in the Islanders season. Gallant, 25, is an undrafted enforcer who has been in the organization for four seasons. He is by no means big -- listed at 6' and short of 200 lbs. -- but he packs a hell of an intimidating wallop as a fighter:
Though injuries cut a couple of his Bridgeport seasons short, he has earned a reputation as one of the toughest pound-for-pound players in the AHL at 6 feet, 190 pounds. He set a Bridgeport team record Sunday with his 66th career fighting major; he had 26 last year.
A similar scenario, sometimes with the same player, is the handing out of an NHL contract to such a player during mid-season. It doesn't in itself mean anything, but it always plays well with the farm team and throws a carrot to the boys toiling in the minors in the middle of a long season.
(One example of this was the signing of 32-year-old Justin Johnson to an NHL two-way contract last month, which got him applause at Bridgeport practice. Also, the Isles first signed Gallant to an NHL deal in February 2013.)
Anyway, the Islanders are hardly lacking for an enforcer -- Matt Carkner handled many a ruckus Sunday night in Columbus, and that's definitely in his job description. But it's true their lone pure enforcer Eric Boulton is out for the season with a broken hand, and the Isles have a few games coming up against opponents who have as little at stake and as little reason to avoid fights as the Isles (though Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, employs noted tool and instigator Chris Neil).
So after accumulating a massive pro fight card, Brett Gallant gets his first and quite possibly only call to the show. He'll get his NHL debut, which is great for him, and he'll probably have a highlight fight in front of rabid home fans to go with it.
As a result, and as part of the "emergency" conditions, Johan Sundstrom gets sent back to Bridgeport. But that's neither here nor there at this point. This is a late-season nod to a player for sticking around.