The Islanders' Semyon Varlamov reaches for a loose puck during...

The Islanders' Semyon Varlamov reaches for a loose puck during the second period of an NHL game against the Flyers on Jan. 18 in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Matt Slocum

LOS ANGELES — This has not been the season the Islanders expected. That is particularly true for goalie Semyon Varlamov, the backbone of successive postseason runs to the NHL final four.

The Russian veteran started the season injured, endured a COVID-19 quarantine in Calgary and lost playing time to countryman Ilya Sorokin. Now, with the NHL trade deadline on March 21 and the Islanders fading from playoff contention, he could be moved.

He made his first start in nine games on Saturday night as the Islanders faced the Kings at Crypto.com Arena in the third game of a five-game road trip. The Islanders will face the Ducks on Sunday night.

"I would say that it has been choppy, is the best word," coach Barry Trotz said of Varlamov’s season. "A goaltender, they want a little bit of rhythm. He really didn’t have any training camp. He felt like he was just coming back and he got shut down again. Then we didn’t play two games in a month.

"I felt like he was just getting back into game rhythm, game shape, reads and all that, and he tests for COVID and gets stuck in Calgary. Trying to catch up without practices, it’s been hard for him to catch up. He’s been playing catch-up, choppy hockey all year. Hopefully we’ve gone all through that and he gets to play a little bit here and show the type of goalie that he is for us. Because he’s a top-end goaltender in the NHL, there’s no question about it."

There’s also no telling how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might be affecting Varlamov or his family. The Islanders have not made Varlamov or Sorokin available to the media since mid-January.

Varlamov entered Saturday night’s game with a 3-9-1 record, a 2.57 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. His previous start was a 3-0 loss to the expansion Seattle Kraken at UBS Arena on Feb. 2, one of the Islanders’ most dismal efforts of this disappointing season. Varlamov allowed two goals on 30 shots, including Jared McCann’s sharp-angle shot to open the scoring at 6:04 of the third period.

Varlamov was supposed to start in Calgary on Feb. 12 and took warmups before being pulled from the lineup after testing positive for COVID-19. He missed four games while in protocol, not rejoining the team until it opened this road trip with a 5-2 win in Seattle on Tuesday.

"He’s handled it professionally," Matt Martin said. "He comes to the rink with the same attitude every day, which he always has. I’m sure it’s been frustrating. For all of us, really, it hasn’t gone, to this point, the way we wanted it to. For him, as an individual, with the injury, it’s not easy to get caught back up missing the training camp and a good portion of the offseason. In the games he’s played, he’s played well for us."

How much longer Varlamov will play for the Islanders could be in question. His four-year, $20 million deal runs through next season and includes a modified no-trade clause for this season and next. Varlamov can submit a 16-team no-trade list.

But there are several playoff contenders seeking goalie depth, and if Sorokin continues to develop into the Islanders’ No. 1 goalie, a $5 million salary-cap hit is a pricey one for a backup.

The Islanders don’t necessarily have an in-house candidate to replace Varlamov on a full-time basis. Cory Schneider, the likely choice, has struggled at AHL Bridgeport and Jakub Skarek, 22, might not be NHL- ready despite being named the AHL goalie of the month in January.

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