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Islanders Update: When Could Missing Players Return?

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Mathew Barzal

With the New York Islanders starting their Christmas break early following the postponement of their Thursday contest against the Washington Capitals, here is an update on the players currently missing from the lineup.

Holiday Break Starts Early: NHL & NHLPA Agree To Postponements

Barzal’s Eventual Return From COVID Protocol

On the morning of Dec. 14, before the game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Islanders placed forward Mat Barzal in COVID-19 protocol. Head coach Barry Trotz did not report whether Barzal was quarantining in Detroit or back on Long Island.

Per the NHL’s protocols regarding positive COVID-19 cases, any player that tests positive must remain in protocol for a minimum of 10 days. That put Barzal’s earliest return date as Dec. 24, a day after the Islanders were scheduled to play Washington. With that game postponed, that is one less game the Islanders have to play without their top point-producer.

Barzal has missed the Islanders’ last three contests (1-1-1) but still leads the Islanders with 17 points. As long as Barzal is asymptomatic and his COVID-19 test comes back negative upon returning to team facilities on Dec. 26, he will be allowed to play in the Islanders’ next contest against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 27.

Barzal has five goals and 12 assists in 23 games played. The 24-year old centerman is riding a six-game point streak with one goal and eight assists over his last six contests.

Pulock Could Hit The Ice Soon

There has not been much discussion regarding the return of Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock.

The top-pairing defenseman blocked a short-handed shot off the stick of Matthieu Joseph during the second period of the Nov. 15 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite remaining in the game, his minutes were limited in the second period, and he only played 2:28 in the final frame.

Pulock would be held out of the lineup the following day in a meeting against the Florida Panthers as it seemed that the block shot did some damage.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, the Islanders announced that Pulock would miss four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. A week later, on Nov. 24, Pulock was moved from injured reserve to long-term injured reserve with a predicted return in late December.

Well, it’s late December, and there have been no signs of Pulock. However, Trotz did give an update following practice on Monday.

“He’s still doing therapy,” said Trotz. “He should be skating in a few days or so. it all depends on his rehab.

“Right now he has not been on the ice and I don’t have an exact time…”

It seems that that the Islanders are not rushing Pulock back. It is more important for the long-term that the medical staff and strength coaches feel that he is 100-percent ready. He’s at least a few weeks away from returning, which puts his return somewhere in January of 2022.

Pulock had two assists in 12 games with an average TOI of 21:07.

Palmieri Continues To Be Held Out

In the 3-1 victory over the Boston Bruins back on Dec. 17, the Islanders saw forward Kyle Palmieri leave the game following a shift at 13:06 of the second period.

Looking back at Palmieri’s shifts, nothing stood out that potentially caused the injury. He did not take any hit throughout his 9:12 TOI before leaving the game or block any shots.

Following the game, Trotz stated that Palmieri and to consider him day-to-day.

Palmieri did not participate in the Islanders’ practice on Saturday, Dec. 18, and missed the Islanders’ contest against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, Dec. 19.

He was absent from practice on Monday.

While the injury seemed minor from the start, and it still could be, Palmieri is not being pushed to resume skating. With no games now until after the Christmas break, the 30-year old forward has adequate time to get healthy before the Islanders’ next contest.

Palmieri has failed to record a goal over his last 12 contests, with no points in his last 11. He has one goal and six assists in 25 games played this season.

Playing it Safe with Martin and Salo

Prior to puck drop between the Islanders and Vegas on Sunday, the Islanders placed forward Matt Martin and defenseman Robin Salo in COVID protocol.

Following the game, Trotz gave an update on the two players.

“We had to make a decision because we weren’t getting the results back before the start of the game,” Trotz said.

Both players did not participate in practice on Monday as it seemed it was more for precautionary reasons.

“They’ve been tested a few times,” Trotz said. “We’ve kept them away from the group today, so they didn’t skate.

“We’ll keep them separate and just mitigate any further exposure to anybody else for right now.”

Martin has one assist in 19 games played this season while Salo has one assist in seven contests.

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