The parade of bad news – pretty much all there’s been lately for the Islanders other than opening UBS Arena – continued on Tuesday.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara was added to the team’s lengthy list of players in COVID-19 protocol. Also, president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced second-line center Brock Nelson, who has scored a team-leading nine of the Islanders’ 31 goals this season, will be sidelined two-to-four weeks with a lower body injury.
Defenseman Thomas Hickey and Anatoli Golyshev became the latest call-ups from AHL Bridgeport as the Islanders practiced on Tuesday.
The Islanders are scheduled to face the Rangers on Wednesday night at UBS Arena, and Lamoriello acknowledged there were discussions with the NHL on Monday as to whether that game should be played or postponed.
"There is no decision to my knowledge," Lamoriello said. "We are preparing to play unless we hear otherwise."
The NHL postponed three of the Ottawa Senators’ games earlier this month, including one against the Rangers, when that organization had 10 players plus associate coach Jack Capuano, the former Islanders coach, in COVID-19 protocol.
"I have no knowledge of what the threshold is," Lamoriello said. "I believe that’s in the hands of the doctors, both in the National Hockey League and the [NHL] Players’ Association and the infectious disease people. I really couldn’t answer that. I’ve asked the question, but I don’t know if there is [a threshold]."
Lamoriello said the NHL has given him no indication how much advance notice there might be if it determines Wednesday night’s game should not be played.
"I have no knowledge of what the league is thinking," Lamoriello said.
The last-place Islanders (5-8-2) have lost six straight, including the first two games at their long-awaited new arena. The Flames beat them, 5-2, on Saturday night and the Maple Leafs won, 3-0, on Sunday night. Nelson exited Sunday’s loss after the first period.
Chara joins defensemen Andy Greene and Adam Pelech, captain Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston in COVID-19 protocol. Lamoriello said none of those players had tested negative yet, meaning there was no chance any of them would be available against the Rangers.
Bailey has remained quarantined in Florida since testing positive on Nov. 16 but Lamoriello said he would return to New York this weekend.
Nelson joins top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock, out four-to-six weeks with a lower-body issue, on injured reserve. That will snap Nelson’s ironman streak at 316 games, the second-longest in Islanders’ team history behind Billy Harris (576).
The Islanders are 13 points behind the Rangers for the third and final guaranteed spot in the Metropolitan Division. But Lamoriello said trying to make a rushed trade to bolster his depleted roster might not be the best avenue.
"Whatever we can do to get better, we would," Lamoriello said. "But we will be getting our players back. And I can assure you that I’ve gotten calls. Many teams want to help us in different ways. But not in ways that could really help us."