PHILADELPHIA — The nauseating trip around and around the revolving door for Mathew Barzal and the Islanders might have just mercifully stopped.
“He’s played with a lot of different guys,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “There was no question about that. So for him to have some chemistry and some continuity with with somebody will be very helpful.”
After a 2021-22 season in which the playmaking forward spent at least 20 minutes with eight different linemates over 73 games — and this year spending at least 20 minutes with seven different teammates over 51 games — Barzal appears to finally have found a talent to cement next to him in Bo Horvat.
The Islanders acquired the former Vancouver Canucks captain on Jan. 30 before inking him to an eight-year, $68 million extension on Monday.
“I watched some Canucks games back home and you can see his game quite a bit,” Barzal said. “So I think, you know, [this partnership has] got potential to be great. So I’m really excited.”
That game he speaks of is the brand of two-way hockey that Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello covets. He can play on the penalty kill and back check, but he’s here more than anything for his scoring. This is a high-skilled forward who possesses the quality to consistently put the puck in the back of the net, thus maximizing the creative talents of Barzal.
Horvat makes his Islanders debut on Monday night in Philadelphia against the Flyers with 31 goals in 49 games. The Islanders’ leading scorers before the deal had 19.
“We obviously are going to have some time together,” Barzal, who signed an eight-year, $73.2 million extension back in October, said with a grin. “Both being here for the next eight years, so hopefully we can kick this thing off right… and just go from there. I’m excited.”
For now, it appears that Horvat will take Barzal’s spot as first-line center, allowing the 25-year-old to flex out to the right wing — a spot he had been getting used to just before the All-Star break while playing alongside the usual fourth-line center, Casey Cizikas.
“I think it’s a good fit,” Lambert said. “I think it’s something that is a little bit seamless for [Barzal].”
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