For the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, the NHL season is slated to resume Wednesday night in far too familiar fashion for both teams.
Both teams will be undermanned due to the latest COVID-19 outbreaks they’ve endured when New York hosts Detroit in a battle of Eastern Conference rivals in Elmont, N.Y.
The Islanders last played Dec. 19, when they fell to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in a shootout. The Red Wings haven’t played since Dec. 18, when they beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 in Detroit.
The Red Wings, who had nine players and two coaches in COVID-19 protocols when they defeated the Devils, were shut down the following day when the NHL postponed Detroit’s final two games before the Christmas break. At least 13 teams were shut down before the NHL finally announced the league-wide break would begin following the games of Dec. 21, two days earlier than scheduled. The league remained paused until Tuesday.
Detroit still has six players in protocols as of Tuesday — left winger Adam Erne, center Sam Gagner, defenseman Nick Leddy, defenseman Jordan Oesterle, left winger Lucas Raymond and center Joe Veleno. Head coach Jeff Blashill, who exited protocols on Monday, was hopeful everyone would be available Wednesday except Leddy and Raymond, each of whom tested positive over the past weekend.
“That’s one conversation we’ll have with every player as they come off — are you comfortable playing?” Blashill said. “If they tell me they’re not comfortable, they just don’t feel ready, then they wouldn’t play. But our expectation, having spoken to all of them already, is that as guys come off, they’ll be inserted into practice and then into the lineup.”
The Islanders were amid an 11-game winless streak when they became the second team to be shut down Nov. 27, when they had eight players in protocols as the NHL postponed the next two games on New York’s schedule.
The coronavirus has continued to hit the Islanders hard this month, with Mathew Barzal going into the protocols Dec. 11 and Matt Martin and Robin Salo prior to the game against the Golden Knights … and then Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Oliver Wahlstrom and Zack Parise all tested positive Sunday.
Brock Nelson — who leads the team with 10 goals despite missing seven games with a lower body injury — became the latest addition to the list Tuesday.
“Ideally, I’d like every team to have a full complement of players and we’re playing and there’s no disruption and all that,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday. “But that’s not reality. That’s fantasy hockey right now. Control your attitude, control your work ethic and I think our guys have done a really good job of that.”
The Islanders will also be without right winger Kyle Palmieri, who suffered a lower body injury Dec. 18, and defenseman Ryan Pulock, who hasn’t played since Nov. 15 due to a lower body injury.
–Field Level Media