Mathew Barzal to begin skating this weekend, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello says
TAMPA, Fla. — There’s still no timetable for Mathew Barzal’s return to the Islanders’ lineup, but president/general manager Lou Lamoriello provided some clarity on Saturday. The elite playmaker, out since Feb. 18 with a lower-body injury that outsiders suspect is a knee injury, is scheduled to start skating on his own this weekend.
“He will begin skating either today or tomorrow,” Lamoriello said before the Islanders faced the Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday night. “And then whatever the progress is, how long it takes, I couldn’t tell you. We’ll just go from there. You can keep asking the questions. It’s not that we’re trying to avoid any answers. It’s just the doctors, the physical therapists, they determine.
“We originally said it’s week-to-week, which we were told. Then, upon more examination, it became a little longer than we thought.”
Lamoriello also confirmed that Oliver Wahlstrom, who suffered a suspected knee injury on Dec. 27, is out for the season and the playoffs.
Lamoriello said the expectation is that Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in 2018, who had seven goals and nine assists in 35 games when hurt, will be available to start next season.
“He will definitely be ready before the summer’s over,” Lamoriello said.
The Islanders will have four regular-season games remaining once they conclude a three-game road trip against the Hurricanes on Sunday. The regular season ends on April 12 so, theoretically, there’s a chance Barzal could play before the playoffs start.
The Islanders entered Saturday’s game 11-4-2 without Barzal, who has 14 goals and 37 assists in 58 games.
“He’s a big piece of our team,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “We’ve done a good job with different guys stepping up, trying to make up for his loss. But to have him getting back on the ice, he’s going to be really excited. As a group, hopefully getting him back at some point will rejuvenate the group for sure.”
Lamoriello also addressed some non-injury topics during his 10-minute session with the media.
That included speculation about his job status for next season. The belief around the NHL is that Lamoriello, 80, is in the final season of his original five-year deal with the Islanders.
But Lamoriello pushed back against that.
“Common knowledge around the league?” he said. “None of you know what’s going on with it. I wish that sometimes you have facts rather than common knowledge. And when you report, report what you know, not what you guess or you read or what you hear.”
Goalie Ilya Sorokin started for the 19th time in 24 games on Saturday. Lamoriello seemed perplexed when asked if, in retrospect, he could have traded backup Semyon Varlamov for draft picks or other assets.
“Where did that question come from?” Lamoriello said. “It was never even a thought in my mind.”