NY Islanders Lane Lambert remains hopeful Mathew Barzal will return before seasons end
Heading down the final stretch of the regular season and battling to remain in playoff position, it's less than ideal to be without your best player. That's where the NY Islanders are at with Mathew Barzal, as they enter their fourth week without their star center due to a with a lower-body injury. His initial prognosis was that he'd be "week-to-week," and as of Monday, he's still not skating with the team or on his own. Despite his absence, Isles head coach Lane Lambert remains hopeful he will return before their remaining 11 games of the end of the season come to a close.
In 58 games before his departure, Barzal totaled 14 goals and 37 assists for 51 points. He was creating instant chemistry with his new teammate and linemate, Bo Horvat, following his shift from center to the right wing on the Islanders first line. Unironically, in 12 games without Barzal, Horvat has struggled to find the scoresheet with just two goals and three assists for five points. Despite the lack of offensive production, Horvat has still been excellent contributing in every other possible way, including boosting his excellent 58.5 FO% and killing penalties.
“Definitely, I mean, when you’re starting to feel it with guys and starting to gain chemistry and all of a sudden he gets hurt like that, it does throw a wrench into things a bit,” Horvat told The Athletic, who credited other teammates for “pulling their weight and stepping up in big ways, whether it’s scoring goals or killing penalties.”
Horvat is right, the Islanders have done an excellent job picking up the slack in the absence of Barzal and Horvat's offensive production. In the last 12 games, the Islanders have gone 8-7-3, scoring 37 goals and allowing 28. Players such as newcomer Pierre Engvall, Kyle Palmieri, and J.G. Pageau (retunring from injury) have certainly given the Isles a boost.
There's been no sign of Barzal on the ice or with the team appearing like he's gearing up for a return. Yet, Lambert continues to reiterate he believes the Islanders star center can return before the end of the season. Regardless, the Islanders are winning, and if/when they make the playoffs, they'll want the healthiest barzal they can get.