Mathew Barzal's injury has Islanders skating shorthanded
PITTSBURGH — The shorthanded Islanders will say all the right things about having a next-man-up mindset. But how they functioned without Mathew Barzal was evident as they were routed in their last game.
Now they likely will be without their top-line playmaker when they face the Penguins on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena in a crucial game for their playoff hopes. Arnaud Durandeau, 24, was added to the Islanders’ roster on Sunday on emergency recall from their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and could make his NHL debut.
Barzal exited Saturday’s 6-2 road loss to the Bruins in the first period with an apparent lower-body issue. The Islanders and Barzal have to hope Craig Smith’s hard check did not cause knee damage.
“We’ve got to turn the page,” said Kyle Palmieri, who scored in the game. “We don’t have an option. We’re in a chase for a playoff spot. We’ve got an opportunity to play a team that’s above us and we’ve got an opportunity to turn out a pretty good weekend with a win.”
The Islanders (28-24-7) are 1-2-2 in their last five games but still hold the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot after the Capitals, Panthers and Penguins also lost on Saturday. The Penguins, in the first wild-card spot, have the same 63 points as the Islanders but have played four fewer games. The Capitals, who have played one fewer game, and the Panthers are one point behind the Islanders. The Sabres, who have played five fewer games, are three points behind.
“We inflicted pain on ourselves,” coach Lane Lambert said of Saturday’s on-ice mistakes. “We’ve got to clean that stuff up. Pittsburgh is the big game.”
The speedy Durandeau, a sixth-round pick in 2017, has scored six goals in Bridgeport’s last six games. The Islanders did not practice on Sunday and there was no update on Barzal nor any indication how Lambert might configure his lines.
Likewise, Lambert issued no update on Barzal immediately after Saturday’s loss. He did indicate that forwards Josh Bailey (upper body) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (injured reserve/upper body) will continue to be sidelined. Neither traveled to Pittsburgh.
Barzal, who has 14 goals and 37 assists in 58 games, has transitioned well to his new role as a right wing after center Bo Horvat was acquired from the Canucks. Anders Lee scored twice with an assist Friday against the Penguins in his first game skating with Horvat and Barzal.
Even as a right wing, Barzal helped that trio click with his skating and stickhandling creating open ice for his linemates. His unique skills are impossible to replicate.
Lambert started Saturday’s game with Casey Cizikas centering Matt Martin, who scored the Islanders’ other goal, and Hudson Fasching as a third line and journeyman Andy Andreoff, also recalled from Bridgeport, between seldom-used Ross Johnston and struggling Simon Holmstrom as a fourth line.