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Mathew Barzal ‘trending in the right direction’ for Game 6 after injury scare as Islanders take mental health day

Mathew Barzal took a high stick near the eye during the Islanders' Game 5 loss Tuesday night. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders might not be providing updates on their star center Mathew Barzal, but other notable names certainly are.

New York’s star center was forced to leave Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5 in the third period after taking a stick near the eye area from Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux.

Shortly after the game, NHL insider Dave Pagnotta said that Barzal is okay and should have no issues playing in Game 6 on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET).

However, the Islanders did not disclose any information on their star after the game and did not provide much clarity on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think everything’s trending in the right direction,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said, saying the concern level is “moderate.”

“Hopefully by tomorrow, we can give you a more specific answer on that.”

Just moments later, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault gave some more specific insight, saying that Barzal was alright. He claimed to have found out after sharing an elevator ride with him.

The Islanders managed to cap off their two-goal, late-third-period comeback without Barzal to force overtime, though his presence in the extra period as the team’s No. 1 playmaker was obviously missed.

“We responded well, that wasn’t the problem,” Trotz admitted.

In what seems like the slim chance that Barzal will not be able to go on Thursday night, Trotz appears to have his bases covered.

“The guys who aren’t in the lineup are ready to jump in if we need,” he said. “I’m not worried about that.”

One can expect Jean-Gabriel Pageau to jump up to center the first line between Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle while Derick Brassard shifts from the wing to center on the third line and Ross Johnston fills the empty roster spot should Barzal be unavailable.

On the other side, the Philadelphia Flyers are unsure about the status of their first-line center, Sean Couturier, who did not come out for the third period after an awkward collision with Barzal.

Vigneault was not able to provide any update on the veteran’s status on Wednesday, meaning his availability for Game 6 is unclear.

Thursday night’s second chance for the Islanders to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993 isn’t being lost on the Islanders, who maintain their strict focus-on-the-next-game-only approach. But they admitted that their urgency levels need to be higher in order to close out the Flyers.

“I think we all realize how big this opportunity is that we have,” forward Casey Cizikas said. “It’s a matter of going out there and taking advantage of it. We want to play well for everyone back home watching on the Island.”

Still, Trotz took advantage of the day off amidst a busy schedule to hit the reset button Wednesday.

“We’re going to take a little mental break from this,” he said. “We’ve been sort of going at this for two months. People don’t realize… but it started beforehand to push the guys to get to a place mentally to have success. We got through two series already, so today is a mental break to energize so we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

“There is no fear. We’re going to be ready tomorrow.”

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