Devon Toews of the Avalanche heads up ice in front of...

Devon Toews of the Avalanche heads up ice in front of Joe Veleno of the Red Wings during the third period at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 23 in Detroit. Credit: Getty Images/Gregory Shamus

DENVER — Devon Toews finally got to play against the Islanders on Tuesday night at Ball Arena, 16 months and more than a season and a half after the puck-moving defenseman was traded to the Avalanche.

"In a way, it seems like it’s been a lot longer than it has, not playing them at all last year, not even seeing them at any point," Toews said. "It definitely feels like it’s been a couple more years. But it hasn’t been that long in hindsight."

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello traded Toews on Oct. 12, 2020 for two second-round picks because of salary-cap considerations. There were no inter-conference games last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toews, who entered Tuesday having matched his career high with nine goals and set a career high with 30 assists, said the trade surprised him but he understood why Lamoriello did it.

"It’s a business and Lou’s got to do his job, too," Toews said. "Lou’s been great with me. Lou’s loyal and I love him for it. I’m not mad at him for what transpired. He’s got to do his job and I’ve just got to go out on the ice and do mine.

"I’ve been given a good opportunity here on a great team to showcase my ability. I loved playing in New York, too. And I love playing here. They’re both great places to play with great organizations. It’s worked out nicely for me here and I’m pretty happy for that."

The lack of more puck-moving defensemen has plagued the Islanders this season after also dealing smooth skater Nick Leddy to the Red Wings this past offseason.

The Islanders entered Tuesday’s game 17 games out of a playoff spot after back-to-back runs to the NHL semifinals.

That, too, has surprised Toews.

"Yeah, definitely," Toews said. "It’s a team over there that loves to win and is working to win every single day. They have great leadership. I think they’re definitely a little bit frustrated with the way it’s gone. And they’ve had some bad bounces, too. A lot of things haven’t gone their way that really wasn’t in their control.

"But if you watch their games day in and day out, they’re working hard. They’re doing the right things. Sometimes it’s just not working out or they’re not getting the bounce."

The Avalanche will make their lone trip to UBS Arena on Monday.

"Hopefully not weird," said Toews of facing his former team. "It’s just nice to see some familiar faces and some people that have been really good to me in my career and a lot of long friendships I’ve made with guys on that team."

Barzal, Chara not close

Mathew Barzal (lower body) and defenseman Zdeno Chara (upper body) remained out of the lineup for the second straight game and neither participated in the morning skate.

Coach Barry Trotz listed both as day to day but said it was unlikely either would be available against the Canucks on Thursday night at UBS Arena.

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