Islanders head coach Barry Trotz directs his players during training...

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz directs his players during training camp at Northwell Health Ice Center on Sept. 23. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Islanders are scheduled to host the Sabres at UBS Arena on Thursday night in their first game since Dec. 19 — or at least they were as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Nothing is certain anymore on the NHL schedule, which has been a moving target in recent days because of COVID-19 outbreaks across the league and attendance restrictions that led to postponements in Canadian cities.

But, again: After having a home game against the Red Wings Wednesday night postponed, there was no word as of Wednesday evening that another game would bite the dust in what has been a disjointed season.

On Wednesday afternoon, the team sent out a media interview schedule for after the morning skate and the game itself, and there initially was no word about additional positive tests. Both were potentially good signs.

The Islanders are in last place in the Metropolitan Division, and their 26 games played are tied with the Bruins for the fewest in the NHL.

Brock Nelson joined the COVID list on Tuesday, shortly before the announcement of the Detroit postponement. In addition to Nelson, the COVID-19 list includes forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom.

Matt Martin and Sebastian Aho were on the list but were expected to be cleared before the Wednesday night game, had it been played

The Islanders did not practice on Wednesday.

Asked after Tuesday’s practice how he helps his players deal with the mental challenge this season has presented, coach Barry Trotz said, seemingly only half-jokingly, "I think they have to help me mentally sometimes."

He added, "I think it’s just talking with them, seeing how their family’s doing, asking them how they’re doing. I know organizationally we’ve had the talk, that if anybody is struggling with it, it’s not going to be an embarrassment to anybody [to seek help]. It’s going to be part of taking care of each other in the organization."

Captain Anders Lee said that all players can do is "control what you can control, show up every day with a good attitude, willing to work, put in the time."

Like his coach, he said sensitivity to others is a key.

"We come to the rink every day and we have each other’s backs and help each other if they’re going through a hard time with something like that," Lee said.

The NHL announced on Wednesday that in keeping with CDC guidelines, it will reduce the isolation period for vaccinated players who meet various conditions from 10 days to five. (Canada has different guidelines.)

The Sabres were scheduled to host the Devils on Wednesday night, with five forwards and coach Don Granato expected to be out because of COVID-19 protocols.

One sliver of hopeful news Trotz found in the latest COVID positives was that his forwards were harder hit than his defense corps.

He said it generally is easier to plug in fill-ins on the forward lines than on defense or in goal, citing as an example the Oilers’ scheduled visit on Saturday.

"You’ve got Connor McDavid winding it up, and [a called up defenseman has] not probably seen a Connor McDavid in juniors or in the American Hockey League," Trotz said. "So they end up backing off, giving him space, maybe a little panic sets in because of what a guy like Connor McDavid can do to you one-on-one."

Trotz said the Islanders (8-12-6) have done what they can to keep in touch electronically.

"That’s just the new world," he said. "It’s the Zoom world that we live in right now. Technology takes over. FaceTime and Zoom are not only here now, but they’re probably the wave of the future."

More Islanders


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months