Barry Trotz lamented Monday that there have been so many breaks in the Islanders’ season, either scheduled or because of COVID-19 postponements, that he didn’t "know when the season started for us, really."
Mathew Barzal certainly understands.
The top-line center is back practicing after missing three games while in COVID-19 protocol and will be available when the Islanders restart their season on Wednesday night against the Red Wings at UBS Arena after the NHL’s extended holiday break.
Barzal tested positive Dec. 14 in Detroit and was forced to quarantine there.
"It was tough finding out I was positive," Barzal said after Monday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "In the morning there, I was excited to play and it felt like we were just getting our groove back and guys were getting healthy. It was unfortunate.
"Being back on the ice the last two days with the team, my whole emotion, my whole energy has just been sparked being back with the boys. It’s tough being 10 days by yourself, isolated. It stinks, really. It’s not fun. It’s not easy."
The last-place Islanders have not played since a 4-3 shootout loss to visiting Vegas on Dec. 19. They have had five games postponed since Nov. 28.
Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Zach Parise, Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Robin Salo remain in COVID protocol, but president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Martin and Salo will be activated for Wednesday’s game.
Whether they’ll be in shape to play that night could be in question. Trotz acknowledged that Barzal’s stamina was much better for Monday’s practice than it was Sunday.
"I think he could feel the after-effects of the first practice," Trotz said. "He hit a wall a little bit earlier. When you’re off for that length of time, you’re going to hit the wall . . . Today he was fine."
While Barzal was in protocol, the NHL opted not to have its players participate in February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing. Barzal might have been a candidate for Team Canada.
"I felt like two or three days before they made the announcement, I had a feeling it was coming," he said. "It stinks. I think going to the Olympics would have been great for the NHL and just great for hockey. The talent that would have been on display would have been probably the best ever. But going to China with the quarantine, if you tested positive, there was a lot of weird and odd rules that were happening. It would have been a little bit difficult."
Notes & quotes: Kyle Palmieri (lower body), who missed the Islanders’ last game, resumed skating Monday. The Islanders will practice again Tuesday, and if Palmieri does not rejoin his teammates, it’s unlikely he’ll be available to face the Red Wings.