Islanders center Mathew Barzal looks on against the Kraken in...

Islanders center Mathew Barzal looks on against the Kraken in the second period of an NHL game at UBS Arena on Feb. 7. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mathew Barzal’s return to the Islanders’ lineup can’t be imminent because, as coach Lane Lambert repeated on Friday, the elite playmaker still hasn’t resumed skating.

But his hopeful teammates are starting to say “when” rather than “if” with regards to Barzal.

“I think everyone is just excited that he’s going to be coming back,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said before the Islanders faced the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, Barzal’s 14th game out of the lineup after suffering a suspected knee injury on Feb. 18.

“We’re not sure on the specifics of the timetable,” said Brock Nelson, sporting a stitched-up cut over his right eye but otherwise no damage after being run into the corner boards by Noel Acciari and exiting Tuesday’s 7-2 win over the visiting Maple Leafs in the first period.

“But whenever he does make it back, he’ll be a huge boost for us. He’s an extremely dynamic player. He can boost your offensive tremendously in a game and can kind of take over games.”

The Islanders entered Friday’s front end of a back-to-back — the Sabres are at UBS Arena on Saturday — with a 9-3-1 mark in Barzal’s absence as they held the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. Lambert has repeatedly said the Islanders are hopeful Barzal can return before the regular season ends on April 12.

His absence is glaring on Bo Horvat’s top-line with Anders Lee as Lambert has struggled to find a suitable right wing to complete that trio.

But Barzal might be missed most on the power play.

The Islanders, ranked 30th of 32 NHL teams on the man advantage, went 6-for-17 (35.3%) in the six games after Horvat was acquired from the Canucks on Jan. 30 and he and Barzal were together on the first power-play unit.

But since Barzal was hurt early in a 6-2 loss in Boston, the Islanders were 4-for-37 (10.8%) entering Friday.

“Barzy is really good at bringing the puck in the zone, it’s a strength of his,” Lambert said. “With him being out, it’s a little bit more difficult for us. When the power play was going good, our zone entries were good so we were able to generate some opportunities. I’d say that’s the biggest thing.”

Plus, the Islanders have been too static once they are able to gain the offensive zone.

“It probably depends on the game, the other team’s kill and scenarios,” Nelson said. “But there’s definitely times where we should have a little more movement or try to change up the look to try and create something.”

That, too, is one of Barzal’s strengths.

“He can run a power play,” Pageau said. “He’s got a very good offensive mind and he understands the game. He gets where the openings are and takes advantage of some defensive plays. He’s good at dragging guys to himself to open up some other chances. So he’s missing.”

Having a power play that can create goals rather than stifle momentum becomes even more crucial if the Islanders can qualify for the playoffs, where the games only become tighter five-on-five.

Which is why Barzal’s teammates are encouraged when they see him at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.

“He’s a big part of this team and we want him to be as healthy as possible as quick as possible,” Pageau said. “He’s a game changer and, hopefully, he’s going to come back quick. I think it’s encouraging. You see all the guys working and trying to make that push and he wants to be there too. We see him on a daily basis at the rink. He wants to compete.”

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