Islanders forward Brock Nelson was putting together his drinks before Monday night’s game at UBS Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers when a familiar face that has been seldom seen around those parts — head coach Barry Trotz — made a surprise appearance.
“He just popped his head in and said ‘hey, what’s up? Everybody ready to go?'” Nelson said.
Little pomp or circumstance, which is just the kind of style for Trotz.
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The Islanders’ head coach had not been behind the bench for his team since Dec. 30 after the death of his mother before a bout with COVID. Granted, he only missed three games in half-a-month due to a 12-day break implemented by COVID issues for a west-coast road trip.
“It felt very strange,” Trotz said of his return back behind the bench for the Islanders’ 4-1 victory, their fifth in seven games. “It felt like about a year ago that I’ve been behind the bench after all that’s happened in my life with my family. It was good to get back. Lots of energy, I don’t have much of a voice.”
During Trotz’s absence, associate head coach Lane Lambert led the team on an interim basis. The Islanders went 2-1 with him behind the bench, though he wouldn’t provide all that drastic of a difference from Trotz considering the two have worked together over the last 11 years with three different franchises — the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals before coming over to the Islanders.
“It’s tough when [Trotz is] not there,” Nelson admitted. “A clear message from both of them was kind of the same. The whole staff works hard together to put a game plan together for us. I’m sure they had constant communication when Barry was gone. It was pretty seamless having him back.”