The spectrum of potential impact to the Islanders after leading goal-scorer Brock Nelson and top defenseman Noah Dobson missed Monday’s practice ranges from catastrophic to just a one-day blip.
“They’re two top guys that play a lot of minutes and I think they play really good both ways, so we need them for both offense and defense,” Pierre Engvall said. “Hopefully it’s nothing big and they’ll be back soon.”
The Islanders reported both Nelson and Dobson were absent for maintenance and listed them as day-to-day. Coach Lane Lambert would not speculate as to whether either will be available when the Islanders open a six-game homestand against the Sharks on Tuesday night.
“We’ll see [Tuesday],” Lambert said.
Dobson, second on the team with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists), did not miss a shift as he logged 25:21 in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Panthers that concluded a 2-1-0 road trip.
The Islanders already are without injured defensemen Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho, and Dobson’s distribution skills in quarterbacking the top power-play unit is a main reason the team’s much-maligned man advantage is ranked a strong ninth in the NHL.
Nelson, who has 10 goals and eight assists, missed the final 5:19 of the second period after appearing to hurt his left knee, but he returned for the third period and skated seven shifts in the final 20 minutes.
“He felt good enough to finish the game,” Lambert said.
The Islanders were missing Mathew Barzal against the Panthers because of illness, but he returned for Monday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center and is expected to play against the Sharks.
Barzal, a natural center, is playing right wing on Bo Horvat’s top line with Anders Lee. He could move back to the middle if Nelson is unavailable to center the second line with Engvall and Kyle Palmieri.
Or Engvall could center that line, as he did at practice with Oliver Wahlstrom skating in his place on left wing.
In a very promising sign for Nelson’s availability, Wahlstrom remained on the ice long after practice ended, skating as an extra along with Matt Martin.
“I filled in a little bit at center in Toronto during the COVID year and also the year before in the AHL,” said Engvall, who was acquired from the Maple Leafs late last season. “I’m really comfortable there but I prefer to play on the wing. We’ll see. Hopefully he’s back soon.”
Barzal gets rewarded
The NHL named Barzal its second star of the week after he compiled two goals and five assists in two games. “It’s nice,” Barzal said.
“We’ve played some good hockey, me, Bo and Leesy over the two-game span,” Barzal said. “It’s cool any time you get recognition like that. At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram (3-0-0, 1.63 goals-against average) was named the first star and the Devils’ Jack Hughes (three goals, four assists in three games) was the third star.