The New York Islanders are facing one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the NHL this season, yet the league has not yet stepped in to postpone their schedule, according to general manager Lou Lamoriello. There has been just one postponement this season, the Ottawa Senators, though the San Jose Sharks were awfully close at the start of the 2021-22 campaign. Many started to guess if the Islanders would be the second team to postpone games when Tuesday’s practice and media availability were moved back from 10:30 am to 12:45 pm, but reports say the Islanders will play on despite the latest COVID outbreak.
Islanders Lineup Depleted
At the Islanders’ media availability, multiple reports confirmed the team would not be postponing games and that their first rivalry matchup with the New York Rangers at UBS Arena will continue as planned. However, the Islanders will do so with a severely depleted lineup. Seven Islander regulars are now unavailable due to COVID-19, and Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson are out until mid-December with injuries.
The Islanders announced their leading scorer Nelson would be out for 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury following a hit against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. With nine goals in 13 games, he’s been the lone bright spot on an otherwise struggling offense. His iron man streak also comes to an end at 316 games, the second-longest streak in Islanders history behind Billy Harris’ 576 games.
Islanders Lacking Callup Options
After calling up five players on Saturday for their home opener at UBS Arena, and two more on Tuesday in Thomas Hickey and Anatoli Golyshev, the Bridgeport Islanders are beginning to have some roster issues of their own. With nine players unavailable for the Islanders, they need heavy reinforcements from Bridgeport. The problem is that it left them with a thin group as well.
With Hickey joining the Islanders, it leaves Bridgeport with just six defensemen and no one to draw from the Worcester Railers HC with an AHL deal. In order to add players, they’ll have to sign Worcester players to PTOs if anyone else needs to be called up Wednesday through the weekend. To add to the confusion, Bridgeport and Worcester have games on Wednesday in addition to the NHL Islanders, giving both the NHL and AHL Islanders a small window for call-ups if things continue to go downhill come Wednesday afternoon.
Lamoriello addressed the media for a little less than 10 minutes, announcing the latest players unavailable for the Islanders along with Nelson’s injury and the latest Bridgeport call-ups. He mentioned the Islanders are “preparing to play unless we hear otherwise.”
Lou Lamoriello was asked by Brian Compton of NHL.com if outside help is needed (trades): “Whatever we can do to get better, we would, but we will be getting our players back. I assure you that we’ve gotten calls. Many teams want to help us, but they can’t really help us.”
Lamoriello on playing on with their current roster: “We will continue to do what we have control of. You can’t deal with things that are out of your hand. Certainly, these are difficult times, but we will stay focused on the players we have, what our abilities are to replace players if necessary, and just stay as positive as we possibly can. I don’t think there’s any way you could approach this or handle this any differently.”
Islanders Storylines for the Week Ahead
All eyes will be on the Islanders’ upcoming schedule, which resumes Wednesday against the Rangers. It doesn’t sound like any players will come off the COVID protocol list in time to play, giving the Islanders a serious disadvantage on top of putting other teams at risk as more players test positive by the day. With the Islanders on a downward trajectory even before this past weekend’s losses and additional roster issues, they could really use some time to regroup. Will the NHL allow them to recover?
Jon Zella is a 30-year-old Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.