As the Islanders prepare to finally take the ice once again after another long layoff, the COVID bug has crept its way into their ranks once again.
The team announced on Tuesday that head coach Barry Trotz and defenseman Ryan Pulock were placed on the COVID list — their first two cases since forward Brock Nelson was placed in protocols on Dec. 28.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Trotz, who took a leave of absence on New Year’s Day to be with his family after the death of his mother. He returned to the Islanders on Saturday after associate head coach Lane Lambert oversaw things during his absence.
“Barry is such an empathetic guy himself,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said on Tuesday. “Always looking after everyone in this organization… a good family man. He’s been through a lot lately now with the COVID, we wish him the best… We know he’s itching to be back here and we’ll make sure we take care of business while he’s away.”
Trotz missed the Islanders’ last game on Jan. 1 against the Edmonton Oilers due to those personal reasons and is now poised to miss the team’s next outing scheduled for Thursday at UBS Arena against the New Jersey Devils.
It will be the Islanders’ third game since Dec. 20 — an incredibly light schedule over a 25-day stretch that will frantically be made up in the ensuing three months.
COVID also provides another wrench in Pulock’s return to the team. The Islanders’ No. 1 defenseman has been out since Nov. 15 due to a lower-body injury and was originally given a 4-to-6 week timetable for a return. It will now at least be over two months since he played his last game, though he wasn’t all that close to getting back on the ice for games. The 27-year-old had begun skating, but not with the team, indicating that there still was a bit more rehabbing to do before returning to action.