The NHL has moved into Phase 2 of their Return to Play Plan, and with it, a few New York Islanders players hit the ice on Monday morning at Northwell Health Ice Center.
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Among those players were Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Thomas Greiss. Scott Mayfield, Devon Toews, and Christopher Gibson were also reportedly at the facilities as part of a separate group, though it is unknown if they skated.
Back on the Ice
Phase 2 is strictly voluntary and requires players to be in groups no larger than six people and tested negative for the coronavirus before entering the rink.
Being at the arena must have felt similar to what August feels like for players, getting back on the ice before training camp. “Just feeling the puck, nothing too crazy other than that,” Bailey said on a Zoom chat with reporters Monday afternoon. “After three months there’s a little bit of rust, so it was nice to get out there, move the puck around, get some shots, go over the fundamental stuff,” (from ‘A handful of Islanders return to the ice under the NHL’s Phase 2,’ The Athletic, 06/08/2020).
The return to the ice must have helped Bailey feel like things are finally heading towards normalcy. Nothing’s been normal for him during the hiatus. Even his personal life has been out of the ordinary. On April 3, he and his wife welcomed their newest addition to the family, Blake, their first daughter. Due to the pandemic, the family hasn’t been able to share the joy of a newborn with their loved ones just yet.
The conference with Bailey and the media was a reminder of how much we’ve missed during the pandemic. Before the pause, the Islanders were on a skid, losing their last seven games, and unsure if they would make the playoffs or not. However, the postseason format is settled, and they are preparing to face the Florida Panthers when the play-in round begins.
General manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed that the Islanders are back to full health with Clutterbuck, Boychuk, Casey Cizikas, and Adam Pelech all recovered. It was encouraging to see Clutterbuck and Boychuk as part of the six-man group on Monday morning, as each player suffered a laceration during the 2019-20 NHL season and hadn’t been in the lineup consistently before the pause.
“Things have changed for a lot of people,” Bailey noted. “It’s not a typical schedule we’d be used to. Instead of getting ready for a training camp that goes into the beginning of the season, you’re starting off with playoffs. That’s even more motivation to be sure you’re ready to go.”
This is just the beginning of the Return to Play Plan, and a lot still needs to be done to enter Phase 3, but about a third of the team is already on Long Island according to head coach Barry Trotz. The players will reportedly hit the ice 2-3 times a week during Phase 2, getting their legs back and preparing for training camp.
“We’re looking at it as the start of August (in a normal year), which would be 2-3 days on the ice a week for me,” Bailey said. “Some guys are different. We’ll all coordinate and see what works best. We didn’t go too crazy on Day One, but nonetheless it was fun to get out there.”
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More groups are expected to form, and additional players are expected to take the ice for the six-man skates. Soon after, the coaches will be in attendance, whether it’s on the ice, on the bench, or a few rows back in the standings. The good news is, hockey is back!
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James is a THW New York Islanders writer and podcast host of Nassaumen Hockey Podcast. A trusted source for Islanders content for many years at THW, James is passionate about keeping Islander fans up to date on the latest in Islanders news. Other content contributions also include his Co-Editor-in-Chief status for NYIslesBlog.com. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow James on Twitter.