Nikolay Kulemin missed Wednesday’s game with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday’s win over the Wild. Kulemin skated on Wednesday morning but needed a day and possibly more to let his injury heal.
That meant Mathew Barzal got back in for his second NHL game after sitting as a healthy scratch for four straight and five of the first six games. The 19-year-old Barzal had an inauspicious debut in Washington on Oct. 15, taking two minor penalties in a 2:03 span before he’d played even a minute in the NHL.
He was called for slashing on a back check 3:03 into that game then, after the Isles killed off the power play, was whistled for interference for playing the puck while his skates were still in the penalty box and not on the ice.
It may have lingered a bit more than usual considering Barzal hadn’t played since.
“Couple penalties, those were unfortunate. It was a tough game, Washington at home, but I thought I handled it pretty well after the penalties,” Barzal said. “The team’s been playing well, so I’ve just been trying to work hard in practice. I’m not one to be jealous, I’m here cheering them on and hoping I get in.”
Barzal got in, centering Alan Quine and Ryan Strome. Jason Chimera took Kulemin’s spot alongside Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck to start Wednesday’s game.
Halak vs. the Penguins
For the third time this season, J-F Berube dressed as Thomas Greiss’ backup, with Jaroslav Halak having traveled to Pittsburgh ahead of the Islanders on Wednesday to prepare for Thursday’s start against Sidney Crosby and company.
That’s the second time in as many back-to-backs this young season that Halak, like a starting pitcher in a baseball playoff series, traveled before his teammates to be rested for his next start. Halak left Washington early on Oct. 15 to be home for the Isles’ Barclays Center opener the following night against the Ducks.