A brutal two weeks for the Islanders continued on Tuesday as president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced that Zdeno Chara has entered COVID protocol and forward Brock Nelson will miss two-to-four weeks due to a lower-body injury.
Chara is the seventh member of the Islanders to test positive, joining Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene, Ross Johnston, and Kieffer Bellows. Anthony Beauvillier initially tested positive for the virus on Saturday, forcing him to miss the team’s home opener at UBS Arena, but the results yielded a false positive, allowing him to return on Sunday.
It has left the Islanders roster looking more like their minor-league affiliate in Bridgeport rather than an NHL side. They’ve been forced to usher in the NHL debuts of defensemen Robin Salo and Grant Hutton while Sebastian Aho has received regular playing time with half of the Islanders’ blue line in COVID protocols.
Chara’s absence now puts four of the Islanders’ six
opening-night starters on the shelf.
The loss of Nelson — who was injured during Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs — for an extended stretch is another hammer blow for the Islanders, who are already without top defenseman Ryan Pulock for four-to-six weeks because of a lower-body injury. Nelson is the team’s leading goal scorer with nine on the season, including two during Saturday’s loss against the Calgary Flames.
To fill the vacancies on the roster, the Islanders have recalled defenseman Thomas Hickey and forward Anatolii Golyshev from Bridgeport.
“We’ll continue to do what we have control of,” Lamoriello said. “These are difficult times but we’ll stay focused with the players we have, what our abilities are to replace players if necessary, and to stay as positive as we possibly can. There’s no way you can approach it or handle it any differently.”
Lamoriello revealed that he has had conversations with the NHL on possible postponements, including Wednesday’s rivalry game at UBS Arena against the crosstown-rival Rangers. However, no decisions have been made at the time of this article’s publishing.
“All we can do is focus on today and hone in on [Wednesday],” Lamoriello said.
The NHL has already postponed games this season for the Ottawa Senators this season after they had 10 players test positive for COVID-19, but there does not seem to be a concrete number of positive tests that warrant such actions.
“I have no knowledge of what the threshold is,” Lamoriello said. “I believe that’s in the hands of the doctors in the NHL and the players association and the infectious disease people… I’ve asked the question but I don’t know if there is.”
The Islanders practiced on Tuesday and if they are forced to take the ice against the Rangers, they’ll attempt to halt a six-game losing streak that has seen them drop to last place in the Metropolitan Division.
“They’re putting on a great front if they’re not approaching it with the way I’m trying to articulate it,” Lamoriello said of his players. “They’re not dwelling on anything. This is a good group, a veteran group, and I’d hope that the veterans are telling the younger players who have come in to just stay focused. Right now I think they’re doing everything they possibly can, as is the coaching staff.”