The New York Islanders are ready to go after COVID paused their season for a pair of games.
The NHL cleared the Islanders to resume their schedule on Wednesday, which will start on Thursday when they host the San Jose Sharks at UBS Arena. The Islanders practiced for the first time on Wednesday after the team facility had to be closed while they went through daily COVID testing to determine when their season could resume.
Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Anders Lee and Ross Johnston were all on the ice for practice on Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center. All are expected to be in the lineup on Thursday against San Jose.
Casey Cizikas and Zdeno Chara are still in protocol.
“Time went by a little slow. It was tough,” Bailey said about having to quarantine in Florida. “You want to be out there with the guys helping out and be at home when we’ve finally been home. Here we are, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow night. It’s an exciting time, especially for all us guys that haven’t played in that arena yet.”
Anders Lee added: “All good now and ready to roll.”
The Islanders’ schedule was put on hold on Saturday after Casey Cizikas had tested positive for COVID and forced the postponement of Sunday’s tilt with the New York Rangers and Tuesday’s trip to Philadelphia. The league is still working to reschedule those two games, the NHL said in a press release.
The New York Islanders had begun to return to COVID protocols that they had been following last year, requiring everyone to wear masks inside team facilities.
“The Islanders organization has followed, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its Players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, state and national agencies,” the NHL said in a statement.
The outbreak started in the final leg of the Islanders’ 13-game road trip. Bailey was the first to test positive and remained in Florida to quarantine. Lee and Johnston entered protocol a day before the Islanders were set to open UBS Arena.
The Islanders dropped all four games during the peak of the outbreak, but the NHL did not step in until last weekend.
“That kind of stuff is out of our control,” Lee said when asked about the league’s response to everything. “There’s protocols implemented and they’re in place for a reason. The doctors get together and all sides, from the team to the union to the league. There are some things that have to happen and I think we tried to mitigate it. … I think at the end of the day the last thing they want to have to do is reschedule a game and when it got to the point it was necessary they shut it down.
“As players, we just do what we can to be ready for our next game whenever that is.”
The Islanders return to the ice in desperate need of points. At 5-10-2, they are in last place in the Metropolitan Division with a large hill to climb to get back into the playoff picture.
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