Defensemen Thomas Hickey and Paul LaDue and forwards Richard Panik and Anatolii Golyshev were reassigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport as the parent team continues to recover from its COVID-19 outbreak.
That meant rookie defensemen Robin Salo and Grant Hutton remained on the roster and Hutton and Sebastian Aho remained among the team’s top six for Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Sharks at UBS Arena.
Defensemen Adam Pelech and Andy Greene returned to the lineup from COVID-19 protocol, but Ryan Pulock (lower body) remains on long-term injured reserve. Forward Kieffer Bellows also was cleared from COVID-19 protocol but did not play Thursday.
Barry Trotz said he kept the right-shooting Hutton in the lineup over the lefthanded Salo to be able to dress three lefty-righty defense pairs. But it also came down to play. "Robin’s game has slipped some from his first to his last game," Trotz said.
D Zdeno Chara and C Casey Cizikas remain the last two Islanders players in COVID-19 protocol. Chara, who tested positive on Nov. 22, was able to skate on his own on Thursday. Cizikas tested positive on Saturday.
Four players returned to the Isles’ lineup from COVID-19 protocol and Trotz did not limit any of their minutes.
Josh Bailey played 19:11, the second-most ice time for a forward. Anders Lee logged 15:43. Pelech played a team-high 24:14 and Greene was on the ice for 19:55. Trotz did note some rust in their games.
"I felt good tonight," Lee said. "I had my legs."
"I personally felt really good," Greene said. "I’m sure some of it is adrenaline and just being fired up to be back and playing at home for the first time, too. From a stamina point, my legs and everything felt pretty good."
Forward Kieffer Bellows also was cleared from COVID-19 protocol but did not play Thursday.
"It’s just roles and play," Trotz said. "That’s all we can judge them on now. For instance, our power play needs to be a little bit better so a guy like Aho or Salo will be on the power play and they’re going to have to be a part of it until Pully gets back."
Along with Pulock, Brock Nelson (injured reserve/lower body) remained out, and Trotz said both are just "rehab right now, nothing more than that." Pulock was expected to miss four to six weeks from Nov. 16 and Nelson was projected to miss two to four weeks when he was sidelined on Nov. 24.
"They’re both on the same timelines that you’ve heard," Trotz said. "[Nelson] is not a day-to-day and you’re not going to see him in a game or two. But he’s making good progress. They both are. They’ve just got to heal."