Islanders left wing Matt Martin sets before a face-off against...

Islanders left wing Matt Martin sets before a face-off against the Sharks in the first period of an NHL game at UBS Arena on Dec. 2, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

PHILADELPHIA — The NHL is preparing to relax its testing protocols for COVID-19 and the Islanders’ Matt Martin, echoing the sentiment of many members of the NHL Players’ Association, is in favor of the changes.

"I think it’s probably a good thing," Martin said before Tuesday night’s 4-3, nine-round shootout win over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. "A lot of us have already had it."

The NHL and NHLPA jointly announced on Tuesday that asymptomatic vaccinated players would no longer be tested daily following the All-Star Weekend, Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas. There will still be a five-day isolation period for players who do test positive.

Players who have tested positive will still have 90 days until they are required to test again.

Testing for players crossing the U.S.-Canada border will be "dictated by the relevant health authority."

Martin is one of 18 Islanders who has spent time in COVID-19 protocol, along with coach Barry Trotz, assistant coach John Gruden and goalie coach Piero Greco.

Defensemen Noah Dobson and Scott Mayfield, goalies Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov and Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Austin Czarnik are the only players not to test positive so far.

"Ninety days, we’ll be right around playoff time that guys would start getting pulled out of games even if they’re feeling OK," Martin said. "I think it’s a step in the right direction and, hopefully, we can continue to move forward and get back to a normal way of life."

Why ninth?

Oliver Wahlstrom’s confident shot for the only goal of the nine-round shootout begged the question: What took Trotz so long to use the sharpshooter?

Well, Wahlstrom did enter Tuesday 0-for-3 on shootout attempts.

"We gave him the ball to run with it and he sort of fumbled it the first three times," Trotz said. "He didn’t really come that close. Sometimes, you move a guy down the lineup a little bit they take a little of offense to it or the challenge, whichever you want. Today, Wahlly took it as a challenge that he had an opportunity to win a hockey game and get himself back in the mix for shootouts."

The Islanders improved to 1-3 in shootouts.

Palmieri's slow recovery

Palmieri (injured reserve/lower body) missed his seventh game despite resuming practicing with the team on Jan. 3.

"He just hasn’t moved forward as quickly as we thought he would," Trotz said. "There hasn’t been, really, any setback. He’s probably 80-85% but you’ve got to get it a little closer. He just sort of plateaued there."

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