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Islanders Mathew Barzal surprise healthy scratch vs Sabres

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders skates against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders skates against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz hinted that a few guys might get some rest ahead of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Obviously, no one knew who it might be but we could have all made an educated guess as to who might be the player(s) in question.

Turns out it was Mathew Barzal. The player none of us expected would be pulled out of tonight’s game. I even wrote that the Isles needed Barzal to have a strong game tonight if they want to win.

Matt Martin and Leo Komarov were also not in the lineup for warm-ups. Micheal Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (back from a slight injury) were in the lineup tonight.

Mathew Barzal not on the ice for the New York Islanders tonight

I’m not sure how to feel about Barzal being a healthy scratch for this game.

On one hand, the Islanders are still fighting for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. They are four points back from one of the top two spots in the Eastern. They also have a game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins who sit in second place.

In order to bridge that gap, the Islanders could certainly use Mathew Barzal in the lineup. With 41 points on the season, he’s way ahead of the next player on the team for production (that’s Josh Bailey at 33 points). Barzal is the Islanders offense, without him it isn’t really the same.

But, there’s also a thing as load management. Barzal hasn’t missed a game since he hit the NHL in 2017-18, playing all 284 games on the schedule since 17-18, plus another 30 playoff games.

The Islanders could certainly use a rested and refreshed Mathew Barzal as they make yet another push for a Stanley Cup. A peak Mathew Barzal is a dangerous Barzal.

So while not having him in the lineup tonight is tough, the Islanders should be able to get through the Buffalo Sabres without him and if that means Barzal can use this break to get back to his best, this will be worth it.

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