August 10, 2022

The Islanders are whole again.

After missing nearly two weeks worth of games, Mathew Barzal and Zdeno Chara returned to the lineup in Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Jets.

Barzal, whose 37 points lead the team, is a huge addition, as the Islanders’ center depth has been stretched thin in his absence. Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, in particular, have stepped up while he has been out. Interestingly, instead of returning Barzal to his customary spot centering Anders Lee, Islanders coach Barry Trotz chose to keep Nelson there, with Barzal on the third line.

“I like our lines the way they were,” Trotz said. “I think all three of them have a potential to be very dangerous. One of the things I liked, Leesy’s come back, he’s played with Brock. Brock has stepped up. Brock has been as good as anybody on our hockey team. [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau keeps doing what he does. Barzy came back in the lineup, I like Barzy with Zach [Parise].”

Barzal played 17:44 with Chara notching 16:02 of ice time in the victory. Though neither got on the scoresheet, their presence was very much a factor.

Mathew Barzal skates with the puck as he seeks to elude Jensen Harkins (12) and Kristian Vesalainen during the Islanders’ 5-2 win over the Jets.
AP

“To be honest with you, I didn’t know exactly where Barzy’s game would be,” Trotz said. “But he skated, he was dynamic with the puck. … He’s fresh, he’s excited to play and he played well.”

“It’s always great getting Zdeno back on the back end,” Adam Pelech said. “He’s a prime example of how you defend hard and it’s a reason why our defense has been improving. In terms of Barzy, it’s always great to get him back. We definitely missed him there and it’s really nice to have him back in the lineup.”

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Trotz has said he plans to shuffle the forward lines often with the Islanders schedule being packed with games until the end of the season. What he does with Barzal — and what works — will be an area to watch, as it’s something the Islanders have struggled to find the answer to this season.

“All four lines are going to be crucial if we’re going to have any kind of success going forward here,” Trotz said. “And each night you can look at all four of those lines, they can be a number one line.”


The Islanders sent down Otto Koivula in a corresponding move with Chara’s activation off IR.


Oliver Wahlstrom and Sebastian Aho were the healthy scratches for the Islanders. … Friday was Josh Bailey’s first two-goal game since April 20, 2021 against the Rangers. … The victory over Winnipeg was the 900th of Trotz’s career.