Mathew Barzal is in the Islanders’ lineup for Wednesday night’s must-win Game 6 of their NHL semifinal series against the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum, $5,000 poorer but not suspended after letting his frustration take over in Monday night’s 8-0 loss at Amalie Arena.
Now, coach Barry Trotz wants to see what lesson his star center learned after receiving a five-minute cross-checking major and a game misconduct — plus NHL supplemental discipline — for his hit on Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta at the end of the second period in Game 5.
"I can’t tell you what he’s learned because I don’t know that yet," said Trotz, who expressed his "disappointment" in Barzal immediately after Game 5. "It’s in his hands to show you what he’s learned. Mathew is a good young player and good young players, you’ve got to fight for your space, you’ve got to fight for your inches. You’re going to have to take some abuse to be a top player.
"Understanding the situation, understanding the player that you can be and what we want you to be, this is just another thing you learn from to be that complete star player that you covet in this league. He has the tools. The non-skill stuff is where you see young players grow the most. Everyone’s gone through that."
Barzal was seemingly at risk for his first NHL suspension, especially with Rutta not returning for the third period of Game 5. But the league’s Department of Player Safety did not conduct a hearing on the play and instead just fined Barzal.
"Having Barzy in the lineup is huge," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "He’s a guy on our team that drives us. We all know how talented he is as a player. Everyone knows how much we need him as well."