The Islanders will wait another day to return to the ice.
Their Wednesday game against the Red Wings was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings believe the game was called off due to the Islanders’ COVID issues, though they have their own set of players in protocol as well.
Brock Nelson became the fifth Islander in protocol on Tuesday afternoon, joining Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Oliver Wahlstrom and Zach Parise. Kyle Palmieri is also out with a lower-body injury, meaning the Isles would have played without half of their forward group.
The Islanders are scheduled to play the Sabres on Thursday. Buffalo coach Don Granato and two players, Dylan Cozens and Mark Jankowski, were added to protocol upon returning to practice this week.
“I know the [Players’ Association] and the league, they’re doing everything they can to get these games in,” Anders Lee said on Tuesday prior to the postponement, referring to a policy that has at times induced harm on the Islanders this season.
“I think I’ll leave that to everybody upstairs and the league,” coach Barry Trotz said when asked if he’d rather play with half his forwards out or postpone. “… Ideally I’d like every team to have a full complement of players and we’re playing, there’s no disruption and all that. That’s not reality. That’s fantasy hockey right now.”
If the Islanders play on Thursday, they will be left with no choice but to make heavy use of their taxi squad. Michael Del Colle and Austin Czarnik were added on Tuesday to that group, which also includes Cole Bardreau and Simon Holmstrom at the forward spots.
Before the break, when asked about COVID’s effect on the season, Trotz talked about how it might be easier to play down forwards than defensemen. He did not mean to turn the Islanders, who had five of six defensemen out in a game earlier this year, into a test case.
“A D corps, I know they have their pairs but it’s very much all six of them together if that makes any sense,” Lee said. “They all work off of one another, there’s matchups, different every night. … Forwards [are] a little more plug and play in that sense and so I can see what Barry means.”
At 8-12-6, the Islanders cannot afford to drop points, especially at home, giving some weight to the decision to play or postpone.
But so much of what comes next will be dictated by a reality that has smacked them in the face for six straight weeks, one they have zero control over and no bargaining power with.
“We’ve struggled to have 20 players on the ice at any given time,” Trotz said.