NY Islanders Mathew Barzal return possibly on the horizon

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

On Thursday morning when the NY Islanders stepped onto the ice, fans of the blue and orange were relieved to see Brock Nelson as a full participant in practice. He left Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after taking a questionable hit in the first period by Noel Acciari, which required six stitches above his right eye. By the time he was finished getting sewn up, Nelson had claimed it didn't make sense for him to return to the game. Unfortunately, Mathew Barzal remained absent from practice as they're approaching week five without him on the ice. However, it sounds like Barzal is inching closer to a return sooner rather than later.

Islanders head coach Lane Lambert was short and to the point with an update on Barzal. He's hopeful but said there wasn't one.

“No, I think he’s hopefully getting close but we don’t have any update,” Lambert explained following Thursday's practice.

Barzal was injured in a game against the Boston Bruins back on Feb. 18th during the first period when he took a hit from Craig Smith. He was since classified as week-to-week with a lower body injury. Despite his absence, the Islanders have played quite well since he's been out of the lineup, keeping their playoff hopes alive with a 9-3-1 record.

“Losing a guy like Barzy hurts, but I think everyone from that point on took hold of a little more ice time and an opportunity to fill that void," Nelson explained Thursday morning. "I think we put ourselves in a good spot and hopefully he’s close to returning. He’s gonna give us a big boost when he comes back.”

He later explained to The Athletic that Barzal is a little closer to returning than we may have realized.

“Knowing that we have Barzy hopefully going the right direction and close for us is huge,” Nelson told The Athletic. “You get a guy like that, that definitely changes things for us offensively and probably gives teams a little bit different look in terms of matchups and what they want to do. For us, a lot more depth, for sure.”

The Islanders avoided potential tragedy when Nelson returned to the ice Thursday morning, and a few weeks back Cal Clutterbuck returned to the lineup and has made an impact, and a little while later J.G. Pageau did the same. If/when Barzal returns, Nelson is right, it will obviously provide quite the boost as the Islanders best player, and hopefully help kickstart Bo Horvat's offense again as the Islanders newest star has been on a bit of an offensive dry spell. If the Islanders are playing this well now, they'll be that much better when Barzal returns to the lineup which is hopefully on the horizon.