DETROIT — The Islanders’ COVID-19 woes are not over.
Coach Barry Trotz announced top-line center Mathew Barzal has been placed in COVID-19 protocol prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Barzal was the only Islander not to participate in the team’s morning skate.
The team did not announce whether Barzal had traveled to Detroit, if he tested positive, or when. The Islanders have said that all members of the organization have been vaccinated.
But Barzal is the ninth Islander to enter protocol since Josh Bailey first tested positive on Nov. 16. The other eight — Bailey, who wound up having to quarantine in Florida, captain Anders Lee, Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows, Casey Cizikas and defensemen Adam Pelech, Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene — have all returned to the lineup.
Before Barzal, Cizikas was the last to test positive on Nov. 27.
The Islanders had games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28 and at Philadelphia on Nov. 30 postponed because of their COVID-19 outbreak. But they also endured an 11-game losing streak (0-8-3) as they played with a roster depleted via COVID-19 and injuries. During a 4-1 loss to the Rangers at UBS Arena on Nov. 24, Scott Mayfield was the only one of the Islanders’ top six defensemen available.
Yet, the Islanders had almost a full complement available for Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Devils at UBS Arena after Cizikas and fellow center Brock Nelson (lower-body injury) were able to return. Defenseman Ryan Pulock remains on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
"We’ve had a lot of guys that have had it so you should be good for at least 90 days," Trotz said. "At least half our team is pretty good, I think. I think we’ve been doing everything in terms of all the protocols that we need to do. It’s a virus. Someone picked it up and we move on."
But Barzal being placed in COVID-19 protocol was just part of an unsettling day across the NHL.
The Hurricanes’ game at Minnesota was postponed after six Carolina players tested positive over two days, including four on Tuesday. The Flames have had three games postponed this week.
In all, seven teams placed players in COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday. That included ex-Islanders defenseman Devon Toews, now with the Avalanche. The Predators may become the eighth.
The durable Barzal could miss the five games leading into the NHL’s holiday break from Dec. 24-26 if he remains in quarantine for the full 10 days. Prior to Tuesday, Barzal had played in all but one game since joining the Islanders’ lineup on a full-time basis to start the 2017-18 season.
Barzal is on a six-game point streak, with one goal and eight assists in that span. Five of the assists came on the power play, which was 5-of-13 the last six games.
"Mat has been really good on the power play for us," Trotz said. "Our power play is getting a little bit of traction and rhythm. We’ll miss him there."
Another issue facing the NHL and Barzal, potentially, is whether the league’s players will still participate in February’s Beijing Winter Olympics given the current COVID-19 situation and China’s tough guidelines on quarantining for athletes who test positive.
The NHL Players’ Association will make that decision by Jan. 10.
Barzal could be a candidate for Team Canada and he said in November he was still interested.
"Honestly, I would be fine going, even with the outbreak," said Barzal when the Islanders went through their initial COVID-19 wave. "It’s unfortunate and you don’t want to see it happening. Being vaccinated with all the science nowadays, I’m not scared of what’s going on."