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NHL postpones at least two Islanders games because of COVID-19 outbreak

Islanders fans watch the second period of action

Islanders fans watch the second period of action at the new home of the Islanders at UBS Arena, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Elmont.  Credit: Craig Ruttle

The nightmarish start to the Islanders’ season took another downward turn on Saturday. Casey Cizikas became the eighth Islanders player to test positive for COVID-19 and the NHL postponed at least the team’s next two games, including Sunday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said three other non-playing members of the organization also have tested positive. Lamoriello did not reveal their names, other than to say he is not one of them.

Tuesday’s game against the Flyers in Philadelphia also was postponed. After that, the Islanders are scheduled to host the Sharks at UBS Arena on Thursday. The organization must have three straight days without any additional positive tests to resume team activities.

Theoretically, the Islanders could practice on Wednesday and play on Thursday if Sunday, Monday and Tuesday bring no new negative tests.

"We will certainly be tested each and every one of the next three days, and I’m sure there will be a conclusion after that as to whether we play the San Jose game or not," Lamoriello said. "The way it was stated to me was the first two games will be postponed. I’m just looking at it that way."

In the meantime, the Islanders’ practice facility in East Meadow will remain closed.

The last-place Islanders, forced to dress a makeshift lineup because of the COVID-19 outbreak and key injuries, have lost eight straight games. The Penguins beat them, 1-0, on Friday night to conclude the opening four-game homestand at the $1.1 billion UBS Arena.

Anders Lee, Kieffer Bellows, Ross Johnston and defensemen Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara were in COVID-19 protocol for that loss. Josh Bailey, the first player to test positive on Nov. 16, rejoined the team on Friday after quarantining in Florida but was not ready to play. He practiced on Saturday.

The Islanders also have Brock Nelson and defenseman Ryan Pulock on injured reserve because of lower-body injuries.

The Senators, who had three games rescheduled with 10 players and associate coach Jack Capuano in COVID-19 protocol, are the only other NHL team to have games postponed this season.

Lamoriello said he could not answer why the NHL decided to postpone Islanders games now rather than earlier this week. He insisted he never reached out to the NHL and asked for games to be postponed. On Monday, the NHL discussed postponing Wednesday night’s game against the Rangers at UBS Arena. The Islanders wound up losing, 4-1.

"The league, over the past couple of years, certainly has the best infectious disease medical doctors available," Lamoriello said. "Both the union and the league, plus their own physicians. We have to trust, and we do, their decisions. What goes into these decisions, what statistics allow them to make these conclusions, I’m not privy to that. So all we can do is respond to what their decisions are, as we have today."

The NHL made the decision to postpone at least two games in consultation with medical advisers from the NHL Players’ Association and the Islanders.

"The Islanders organization has followed, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its Players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, state and national agencies," the Islanders said in a statement.

The Islanders started the season with a 13-game road trip and opened UBS Arena with a 5-2 loss to the Flames on Nov. 20 after only one practice at their new rink.

"Then being hit with the COVID," Lamoriello said. "You say it’s unfortunate, but I don’t want to say frustrations. They can get in the way. Certainly, everyone is human. Right now, all we can do is take a step back, use these three days and get prepared for our next practice and our next game."

Ticket info

Sunday – vs. Rangers at Madison Square Garden: The Rangers are not releasing ticket information publicly, but a team spokesman repeated information from the team’s website that the organization is communicating directly with ticket-holders.

Tuesday – vs. Flyers at Philadelphia: Per the Flyers, all tickets will be valid once a new date has been selected. Also, Flyers season-ticket holders can exchange tickets for a different game and single-game ticket-holders who purchased tickets through the Flyers will receive emailed instructions on how to exchange their tickets for a different game. Any tickets purchased through a third party must be handled through that third party.

New York Sports