Mathew Barzal update: Islanders star to begin skating Saturday or Sunday

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Mathew Barzal injury
New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, center, celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey, Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, from left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

New York Islanders star forward Mathew Barzal returned to the ice over the weekend to begin skating, according to head coach Lane Lambert, in what was his first action in an official capacity since he suffered a lower-body injury on Feb. 18 against the Boston Bruins. 

It’s another sizable boost for a team not just on the precipice of a playoff berth, but who did much more than simply keep afloat without their top playmaker by bolstering their spot within the Eastern Conference Wild Card race. 

Entering Sunday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders were 10-5-2 in the 17 games they’ve been without the 25-year-old, who posted 14 goals and 37 assists (51 points) in 58 games played this season before an awkward hit by Craig Smith of the Bruins sidelined him. During the Barzal-less stretch, the offense is averaging nearly 3.5 goals per game which is a boon when looking at the scoring struggles New York had trudged through earlier this season. 

However, his absence has hurt star center Bo Horvat the most. The 27-year-old was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks during the All-Star break to finally provide a stable linemate for Barzal.

Islanders Kraken Bo Horvat
New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates with teammates Sebastian Aho (25) and Mathew Barzal (13) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

After a hot start with the team, he’s scored three goals without the winger — including an 11-game snide that was broken on Monday with an empty-netter in a 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils. 

While Barzal’s return to the ice is an obvious step in the right direction for the team, it does not indicate a pin-pointed return. By Monday, there will be just four games to go in the regular season and the assumption, for now, is that he’ll need several days of practice to re-acclimate. 

Entering Sunday, the Islanders held a two-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the No. 1 Wild Card spot in the East and a three-point edge over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

For more on the Islanders and Mathew Barzal, visit AMNY.com