Just when the New York Islanders thought they were out of the woods, another huge COVID-related blow is struck. Head coach Barry Trotz announced that Mathew Barzal will not play tonight for the Islanders after being placed in the COVID protocol.
Not to be outdone is the Colorado Avalanche, who have faced their own COVID issues this season. Devon Toews, who was recently named third star of the week after an outstanding set of performances is also in the protocol. The Avalanche have recalled top prospect Justin Barron from the Colorado Eagles to replace Toews on the roster.
The Boston Bruins have their own issues as Brad Marchand has been placed in the protocol as well. Unfortunately, Marchand was present at morning skate today, as his test results must have come back afterward. The Bruins notably played the Flames on Saturday, just before Calgary’s season was halted due to a serious outbreak.
With no offense meant to Ryan Lomberg or Craig Smith, who were put in the protocol this morning, the absences of Marchand, Barzal, and Toews are much more important to their respective teams. The Islanders have been desperately trying to climb out of an early-season hole dug by injury, illness, and scheduling. Without Barzal they’ll take on the reeling Detroit Red Wings, a team that has lost three in a row but is still ten points ahead of them in the standings (having played five more games). The star center was on a six-game point streak and now has 17 in 23 games this season.
Toews meanwhile has been playing at an elite level this season, racking up 20 points in 16 games so far while logging nearly 25 minutes a night for the Avalanche. Colorado has won four straight thanks to his help and find themselves skyrocketing up the Central Division standings. In fact, the Avalanche are now tied with the Calgary Flames for the best goal differential in the Western Conference at +25 and are within a single point of second place in the Central.
You might think after Toews, Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, and Bowen Byram that the Avalanche don’t have any more mobile, high-ceiling defenders in the system, but you’d be wrong. Barron, the 25th overall pick in 2020, has nine points in 14 games for the Eagles this season and will now get a chance to show what he can do in the NHL. The 20-year-old represents another wave of exciting talent for the Avalanche, though his debut wasn’t expected this soon.
Marchand is off to another outstanding start this season with 11 goals and 27 points, as he seemingly continues to improve despite entering his mid-thirties. The 33-year-old forward is arguably the most important forward on the Bruins roster, given he leads the team in scoring, plays the most minutes and continues to get under the skin of opponents. The Bruins are set to play the Golden Knights this evening, but will now be missing two important wingers.
For Barzal, Marchand, and Toews, if they have tested positive for coronavirus and are experiencing any symptoms, they’ll be held out a minimum of ten days.