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Islanders’ Mathew Barzal looking for ‘concrete’ right-winger for top line

Mathew Barzal Islanders
Mathew Barzal
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Kyle Palmieri went down with a lower-body injury, the Islanders have had a problem finding a suitable first-line right-winger to slot alongside center Mathew Barzal and left-wing captain, Anders Lee. 

In their last four games alone, the Islanders have tried five different forwards on that first line: Kieffer Bellows, Zach Parise, Josh Bailey, Austin Czarnik, and Jean Gabriel-Pageau.

The constant shuffling by head coach Barry Trotz indicates that he isn’t pleased with any of those options — and there continues to be a hesitancy to try young sniper Oliver Wahlstrom at the spot especially since he was benched for Saturday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

[ALSO READ: Islanders’ Barry Trotz looking for a more consistent Oliver Wahlstrom]

So the ever-continuing revolving door is expected to continue until Palmieri — who was still labeled as day-to-day by Trotz on Monday — returns.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and sometimes, you throw spaghetti on the wall… and it works,” Trotz said. “It’s whatever it is, the strange group you put together sometimes works… Finding the right fit isn’t just putting a goal scorer and a net-front guy and a centerman. Sometimes that chemistry is not there.”

Regardless of the uncertainty on his right side, Barzal is still producing. He’s posted 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists) over his last 14 games — but some continuity would be appreciated.

“I would love some concrete chemistry with somebody,” Barzal admitted. “Rotating guys in and out, sometimes it’s hard to get that chemistry. In saying that, I pride myself on being a guy that can play with anyone.

“It’s nice to have a line that you’ve been with for a little bit, but this is the NHL and you have to play with whoever is up there.”

When asked who his ideal linemate would be, Barzal deferred to his head coach: “That’s a question for Barry.”

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