For the New York Islanders, the idea of taking games one day at a time is now a lot more than just a well-worn cliche serving as an easy answer to a variety of press conference questions.
The Islanders are scheduled to resume their season after a COVID-19 pause Thursday night, when they are slated to host the San Jose Sharks in Elmont, N.Y.
The Sharks continued their third five-game road trip of the season Tuesday, when Timo Meier scored twice for the second straight game as San Jose beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, in Newark, N.J.
The Islanders haven’t played since last Friday, when their regulation losing streak hit eight games with a 1-0 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. New York, which had seven players in COVID-19 protocols for the Penguins game, had another player — Casey Cizikas — test positive Saturday. That prompted the NHL to postpone Sunday’s game at the New York Rangers and Tuesday’s game at the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders had to keep their practice facility closed until there were three consecutive days without a positive COVID-19 test, which left the fate of Thursday’s game uncertain until Wednesday morning’s results.
Once they got the good news, the Islanders took the ice at their practice facility in East Meadow, N.Y., with the closest thing they’ve had to a full roster in weeks. Josh Bailey, Andy Greene, Ross Johnston, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech were cleared to return from protocol. Cizikas, Kieffer Bellows and Zdeno Chara remain in the protocol.
Head coach Barry Trotz said most, if not all, of the returnees will play Thursday, when the Islanders will begin the task of trying to climb out of the Metropolitan Division basement. New York, expected to contend for the Stanley Cup after making back-to-back trips to the NHL semifinals, entered Wednesday with 12 points, tied for the second fewest in the league and 12 points out of a wild card spot.
“We’re going to take it day-by-day, game-by-game and not get ahead of ourselves,” Lee said Wednesday. “We’re looking forward to this challenge. It’s going to be difficult to get out of, but nothing that’s insurmountable or anything like that. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played and our best hockey is in front of us.”
The Islanders won’t have to wait long to get an on-ice challenge. The Sharks have won four of five (4-1-0) and have yet to trail on their road trip, which began with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night.
The road has become an increasingly comfortable place for the Sharks, who are one of just eight NHL teams with a .500 or better road record while playing at least 10 games away from home.
“We put this trip up there as a pretty important trip just because we have a string of home games coming up here when we get back,” Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said. “So we knew it was important coming into this road trip to get off to a good start and grab our fair share of points here.”
–Field Level Media