Sabers vs. Islanders clash features teams compromised by COVID

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December 4, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, United States; Buffalo Sabers right winger Tage Thompson (72) steps out of the ice against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It won’t take long for the Buffalo Sabers to face an opponent who could learn the lesson the Sabers learned after returning to action on Wednesday night.

The Sabers are set to complete a back-to-back set Thursday night, when they are expected to visit the New York Islanders in Elmont, NY.

The Sabers played for the first time in 12 days on Wednesday night, when they lost 4-3 to the visiting New Jersey Devils. The Islanders haven’t played since Dec. 19, when the visiting Vegas Golden Knights claimed a 4-3 shootout victory.

The Sabers and Islanders were scheduled to return from the holiday break with a game in Buffalo on Monday, but that was postponed when the NHL added an extra day to the holiday break to allow more time for COVID-19 testing.

The Islanders were then scheduled to resume action on Wednesday, but their game against the Detroit Red Wings in Elmont has been postponed due to continuing outbreaks of COVID-19 in both teams.

If the Sabers’ performance on Wednesday is any indication, the Islanders could experience an inconsistent return. Buffalo, which had six players – defenseman Jacob Bryson, center Dylan Cozens, left winger Zemgus Girgensons, right winger Vinnie Hinostroza, center Mark Jankowski and left winger Jeff Skinner – as well as head coach Don Granato in COVID-19 protocols Wednesday night, had just three shots on goal in the first while being 2-0 behind.

The Sabers tied the game on a pair of goals from Tage Thompson in the first four minutes of the second period, but couldn’t recover from the tiebreaker and allowed a pair of goals for the Devils in 2:22. at first. the third. New Jersey ended up edging Buffalo 42-22.

“The execution was sometimes botched. It took us a little while to get into the game, even then, just to find a real rhythm of the game, ”said Sabers assistant coach Matt Ellis, who replaced Granato. “Tonight I felt a little bad; but the level of battle was there; the competition was definitely there.

The return of breaks is nothing new for the Islanders, who had eight players in protocols on Nov. 27 when they became the second team to see their season interrupted by the NHL. New York postponed two games before returning to action on Dec. 2 with a 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks – the ninth of 11 straight losses (0-8-3) for the club.

The coronavirus continued to hit the Islanders hard this month, with Mathew Barzal entering protocols on December 14 and Matt Martin and Robin Salo doing so ahead of the game against the Golden Knights before Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck and Zack Parise were all tested positive on Sunday.

Barzal, Martin and Salo are expected to return on Thursday, but Brock Nelson – who leads the team with 10 goals despite missing seven games with a lower-body injury – became the latest addition to the COVID-19 roster on Tuesday.

“Ideally, I would like each team to have a full squad of players and we would play and there would be no disruption and all that,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday. “But that’s not the reality. It’s fantastic hockey right now. Control your attitude, control your work ethic and I think our guys did a really good job in that regard. “

–Field level media


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