With points in five of their previous six games and fresh off a long-awaited first victory at UBS Arena, the New York Islanders had hoped their nightmarish stretch was finally over. But then they sustained another defeat Tuesday night and even that was overshadowed by worrisome off-ice developments.
And now the Islanders hope history isn’t about to repeat itself — off or on the ice — as they prepare to host the Boston Bruins on Thursday night in Elmont, N.Y.
Both teams were off Wednesday after enduring losses Tuesday, when the visiting Islanders fell to the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1, and the host Bruins lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-1.
The losses for both teams were overshadowed by positive COVID-19 cases within their locker rooms. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz announced after morning skate that star center Mathew Barzal was placed in COVID-19 protocols. Following the game, Trotz said Barzal tested positive and would remain in quarantine in Detroit while his teammates traveled back to Long Island.
The Islanders had two games postponed late last month after eight players tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is an ongoing dilemma for a lot of teams, not only us,” Trotz said Tuesday night.
The Bruins were among the NHL teams to receive unfortunate reminders of that reality on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Boston played hours after left winger Brad Marchand and center Craig Smith were placed in COVID-19 protocols.
On Wednesday, center Patrice Bergeron, who scored the only goal on Tuesday, joined his Bruins teammates in the protocols.
The Carolina Hurricanes-Minnesota Wild game scheduled for Tuesday was postponed due to a spate of positive cases for the Hurricanes. The Calgary Flames had their next three games postponed Monday before adding 17 personnel to their COVID-19 list Wednesday. The Predators and Vancouver Canucks also had players and staff members placed in protocol Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Bruins returned home Tuesday after a three-game road trip in which they visited the Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Flames.
“We’re on the road and we’re trying to do the right things away from hockey — it is what it is, that’s the world we live in right now,” Bruins left winger Taylor Hall said Tuesday night. “At some point — hopefully this spring is the last time we have to deal with this stuff. But it is disheartening. I think you’re seeing it in football, you’re seeing it in basketball, you’re seeing it all over the place.”
Health permitting, both the Islanders and Bruins will be looking for a spark on offense Thursday night. New York, which scored just 13 goals in an 11-game losing streak (0-8-3) from Nov. 7 through Dec. 5 before collecting 12 goals in its next three games, was being blanked Tuesday until Anders Lee scored an extra-attacker goal with 2:33 remaining.
The Islanders, who were outshot 32-19 in the first two periods, outshot the Red Wings 15-7 in the third.
“We didn’t do it early enough to give us a better chance and put us in a better spot,” Islanders center Brock Nelson said.
The Bruins, meantime, fell behind 4-0 Tuesday before Bergeron’s third-period goal. Boston has scored two or fewer goals in five of its last seven games and 10 times in 25 games this season.
“We had to do a better job staying in the game and I think that’s what hurt us — we found our legs as the game went on,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “By then it’s too late.”
–Field Level Media