NY Islanders Mathew Barzal practices with team ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Mathew Barzal intends to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The NY Islanders punched their ticket to the postseason on Wednesday in a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in game No.82 of the regular season. On Thursday, the Florida Panthers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes which set the brackets for the postseason and the Islanders will face Carolina in the first round. All of this transpired while the Islanders were missing star forward Mathew Barzal who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since February 18th, missing just under eight weeks of play. On Friday morning, Mathew Barzal was on the ice for morning skate practicing with the team, a positive indication moving forward.
Ironically, since Barzal went down with an injury, the Islanders have played quite well, however, they didn't get to the postseason without some dramatics, sprinkling in a blunder or two along the way. Alas, for the rest of the season without Barzal, the Islanders recorded a 14-7-2 record, scoring 72 goals for and allowing just 54. Ilya Sorokin was heavily leaned on in that stretch, recording a 13-5-2 record and a .926 SV%. The Islanders are not in the playoffs without his stellar play. Brock Nelson also stepped up in a big, BIG way, registering 12 goals and 20 points in 23 games since Barzal's absence.
The assumption is that Barzal will reclaim his role as the first line right wing next to Bo Horvat. Barzal and Horvat built incredible chemistry prior to his injury where the duo registered 11 points in seven games together.
Josh Bailey was last seen manning Barzal's spot as the door continued to revolve ever since Barzal went down with injury. Before game No.82, Bailey served mostly as a healthy scratch. With Barzal returning, Bailey and Simon Holmstron may see a dip in time on ice.
Alexander Romanov, dealing with an upper-body injury, did not join the team for practice Friday morning.
Further updates to come following Friday's practice.