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Islanders ‘rolling with the punches’ as COVID sweeps through NHL

Islanders bench
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets became the eighth and ninth teams around the NHL to shut their schedule down through the Christmas break. That makes more than a quarter of the league (28%) who won’t have any games scheduled for at least the next week. 

Hockey — like the NFL and NBA — is dealing with a COVID boom that is forcing the decision-makers to take evasive action to get through it while keeping the season intact. As of now, travel across the border between Canada and the United States has been shut down while the breaks given to those afflicted teams will hopefully allow them to stabilize.

The New York Islanders have felt the reverberations of those decisions, as Monday night’s game against the Canadiens was postponed, making Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals their only one before the holiday break — at least for now.

A source with knowledge of the situation suggested that postponing Thursday’s Metropolitan Division matchup at UBS Arena isn’t out of the question considering the current climate of the league.

The Islanders have also been bitten by the COVID bug once again. After losing as many as eight skaters at one time last month, star center Mathew Barzal, veteran winger Matt Martin, and defenseman Robin Salo have entered league protocols in recent days.

“It’s been a little bit disruptive,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Our case was one of the first ones [in the league] and it continues through the league. You can see what it’s doing to the league right now.

“I’ve sort of been rolling with the punches.”

Postponement provides the option of getting the Islanders back to full strength — which seems like the preferred avenue for a team that has a ton of ground to make up if it wants to compete for a playoff spot. But that doesn’t appear to be the sentiment coming from the team.

“I don’t think we need a break or anything,” winger Anthony Beauvillier said. “We want to keep grinding and keep climbing.”

It comes after the Islanders pushed the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights to a shootout on Sunday in what would eventually become a 4-3 loss. Beginning with the final three games of an 11-game losing streak, the Islanders have now taken points in seven of their last nine games — though they’ve won only three of them. 

“You don’t know what’s really going to happen,” defenseman Andy Greene said. “We have to be adaptable, be ready, and go from there. There’s not much more you can do. Show up every day ready to prepare and play and go from there. That’s basically what’s going on right now.”

 

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