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Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov nearing return, potentially this weekend

Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Islanders starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov continues inching toward his 2021-22 season debut as he completes his rehab from a nagging injury that held him out of training camp and the first four games of the season.

“He’s just day to day,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz maintained on Thursday. “He got lots of work today so we’ll see where he is [Friday].”

Ilya Sorokin has started the first three games of the season and got the nod again for Thursday’s matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 26-year-old stabilized after a pair of shaky starts, saving 39 of 40 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

Trotz hinted earlier this week that Varlamov could be ready to go for a weekend of back-to-back games against the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights — but ultimately, it won’t be the head coach’s call.

“He’ll get some ice time Friday and we’ll see where we are in the next 48 hours after that if he’s able to go into a game or if he feels he’s ready,” Trotz said. “He’s going to be the one making that decision. It won’t be me.”

Varlamov is still slated to be the Islanders’ No. 1 goaltender despite Sorokin preparing to take the reins as the main man in the crease for years to come. The 33-year-old has gone 38-25-10 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average during his first two seasons with the Islanders while leading them to two consecutive Stanley Cup semifinal appearances.

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Islanders captain Anders Lee put himself back into the Islanders’ lineup on Thursday after an illness held him out of Tuesday’s victory.

“I’m feeling a lot better now,” Lee said. “Basically had what I think was a bug or food poisoning. It ran its course and now I’ve just been getting back my appetite and getting hydrated.”

The Islanders will be hoping that the bug won’t catch on in the locker room, though third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a game-time decision Thursday for undisclosed reasons.

“Just like anything, you hope if one guy got sick, it’s not two or three,” Trotz said. “There’s a little concern, but our trainers are on it, we’re on it. Just like anything, wash your hands, keep a little bit of distance, and hope you don’t catch anything.”

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