The New York Islanders were already down JG Pageau and Josh Bailey against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, and their forward became even thinner when Mathew Barzal exited the game at 6:05 of the first period after taking a hit from Boston's Craig Smith. The play looked innocuous, but Barzal took an awkward stride after his lower body hit the boards.
Barzal headed to the bench and down the tunnel. At the next TV timeout, he came back on the ice to test something, but it didn't feel right, and he headed back down the tunnel and did not return in the Islanders' 6-2 loss to the NHL-best Bruins at TD Garden.
After the game, head coach Lane Lambert had no update on his status. The Islanders can ill-afford to lose Barzal, by far their best playmaker, for an extended period. With Pageau and Bailey not being available versus Boston, recent AHL call-up Andy Andreoff and Ross Johnston were in the lineup, playing limited minutes.
Barzal had instant chemistry with the newly acquired Bo Horvat, and on Friday night, that duo was paired with captain Anders Lee, who scored twice against Pittsburgh in a 5-4 win at UBS Arena. Both players are dependent on Barzal creating space and feeding them in scoring positions.
The Islanders have a rematch with the Penguins on Monday night in Pittsburgh and would be skating on the road at a signifiicant disadvantage if Barzal is unable to play. Lambert had been increasingly relying heavily on his top two lines in recent games. That becomes harder to do if Barzal is out of the lineup and a bottom-six forward is forced to skate in his place.