New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on in...

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Elmont. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Barry Trotz is back with the Islanders, and this time he was able to coach a game.

Trotz was cleared from COVID-19 protocol before faceoff and was behind the Islanders’ bench for the first time since Dec. 30 as the Isles beat the Flyers, 4-1, on Monday night at UBS Arena.

"I felt very strange," said Trotz, who added that he was asymptomatic while he was out after testing positive on Jan. 11. "It felt like about a year that I’ve been in COVID and I’ve been behind the bench with all that’s happened in my life with my family."

Trotz was absent for the previous three games, the last two while in COVID-19 protocol. He also returned to his hometown of Dauphin, Manitoba, as his mother passed away on New Year’s Day. Trotz missed that day’s 3-2 win over the visiting Oilers.

Trotz returned on Jan. 8 and ran that day’s practice and another one two days later before entering COVID-19 protocol.

Associate coach Lane Lambert, in his 11th straight season working with Trotz, ran practices and the bench during the time the head coach missed.

"I feel great," Trotz said. "I felt great during COVID. I should have COVID all year. No symptoms, nothing. I was feeling actually better than I had in months."

Chara’s milestone

Zdeno Chara, 44, logged a team-high 21:46 as he played in his 1,636th NHL regular-season game, moving past Devils Hall of Famer Scott Stevens for second place on the league’s all-time list for games played by a defenseman. Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, whose last game came at the age of 48 for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010, is the all-time leader at 1,651.

Teammate Andy Greene, 39, who played in his 1,015th game on Monday, marveled at the 6-9, 255-pound Chara’s longevity.

"You look at 600 more games], that’s a great career in this league," Greene said. "What Z has been able to do through two or three, four different types of eras where the style of game has changed a couple of times, it’s very impressive and jaw-dropping."

This is Chara’s 24th NHL season after debuting with the Islanders in 1997. He was traded to the Senators in 2002 and later spent 14 seasons as the Bruins captain, winning his lone Stanley Cup in 2011. He undoubtedly will follow Chelios and Stevens into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Barzal, maybe?

Mathew Barzal should find out Tuesday if he will be making a third straight All-Star appearance. He was the Islanders’ candidate for the Last Man In fan balloting and voting ended at 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

First-time All-Star Adam Pelech was selected to the Metropolitan Division squad by the NHL Hockey Operations Department for the All-Star Weekend Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas.

"People show me they’ve been voting for me, so it’s awesome," Barzal said. "Who knows what happens? That would be a blast to go with him."

Isles files

Brock Nelson’s goal was his team-leading 11th but his first since Dec. 19 . . . Trotz said the Islanders hope to get top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock (long-term injured reserve/lower body) "back in the fold in the next few weeks or so." Pulock, out since Nov. 16, initially was expected to miss four to six weeks . . . Oliver Wahlstrom took a team-high five shots and Zach Parise had four shots.

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