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How Islanders are planning to manage a congested stretch of their schedule

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on in

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

This is not a load management situation, even with a heavy load of games in front of the Islanders.

"When you try to manage the game that’s right in front of you because you have a game say tomorrow, you tend to not do as good a job on the front end," coach Barry Trotz said before Tuesday night’s game against the Devils at Prudential Center. "You try to win every game. If you try to plan and load manage in our game I don’t think you get the necessary results."

The Islanders play 16 games over 28 days in March, having started an overall stretch of 20 games in 36 days with Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins at Nassau Coliseum.

"It is a lot of hockey," Michael Dal Colle said. "I played in the AHL for two and a half years, so my body was used to three-in-threes. As you progress to this level, usually the games are a little more spaced out but that’s not the case this year. It’s just preparing. There’s not going to be a lot of practice time. It’s going to be a lot of video."

 

Tuesday also marks the first game the Islanders will play in front of fans since March 20, 2020 in Vancouver, two days before the NHL paused last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Devils started re-admitting fans to Prudential Center on Tuesday at a limited capacity. Approximately 1,800 tickets were available for the game.

The Islanders’ first home game in front of fans will be March 11 against the Devils, when 1,000 Northwell Health front-line workers will be in attendance as guests in appreciation of their work during the pandemic. Limited season-ticket holders will be in attendance starting on March 18 against the Flyers. The Coliseum is permitted to host at 10% of capacity so just under 1,400 tickets will be available.

It had slipped Trotz’s mind that fans would be in the arena on Tuesday night.

"I’m glad you told me that because I probably would have walked out there and said, ‘Why are these people in the building?’" Trotz said. "It probably will be a little bit strange and different. But it’ll be good. It will be a different energy in the building, which will be great. We can use some, especially with the number of games this month and next month. Any little bit that the fans can help energize the buildings for the players will be a very welcome addition."

Trotz said there will be adjustments in limiting off-day practices and game-day morning skates. And a lot of the ice time the team will have for practices may be optional.

"What you’ve got to do is find other ways to take the load off," Trotz said. "If you’re playing your top guys a little more, maybe they’re not practicing."

There is some time management that can be done within games.

"The games will dictate that a little bit, too," Trotz said. "If you’re in a tight game, you’re probably going to shorten your (defense) pairs up a little bit. If the game gets away, or if you pull away, you can lessen the minutes."

Trotz added any kind of hockey load management differs from basketball, where it’s become common practice for many NBA teams to hold their top players out of certain games.

"You get the ball and you can get it down to 25 seconds without a lot of pressure," Trotz said. "I think hockey’s a little different. You’re going full out pretty well the whole time for the most part."

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