Mathew Barzal exits early in latest Islanders’ injury

BOSTON — After a few weeks of relative quiet on the injury front, the Islanders are right back to setting their lineup by triage.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Josh Bailey, both dealing with upper-body injuries, skipped the trip to face the Bruins on Saturday, leading Lane Lambert to play Ross Johnston for the first time since Jan. 21, which the coach did instead of going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

To make matters worse, Mathew Barzal went to the locker room after a hit from Craig Smith just 6:01 into the game. After he took a couple of laps around the ice during a stoppage, Barzal spent the rest of what became a 6-2 Islanders loss in the locker room.

Lambert did not have an update on Barzal after the game.

“He’s a very important player for us in all different aspects, of course,” Lambert said. “So as much as you try not to let it affect you, we had a power play that didn’t go very well and he’s a big part of that. There’s a residual effect all the way down the line.”

Mathew Barzal
Mathew Barzal

Barzal, who has missed just game this season, Jan. 6 at Calgary, is arguably the Islanders’ most important player. If he misses extended time, it would border on a knockout blow for a team that is trying to make headway during a playoff race in which the math works against them already.

Barzal’s 51 points rank second on the Islanders this season, behind only Brock Nelson, and his 37 assists lead the team. Barzal also has been key to the quick integration of center Bo Horvat, who came over in a trade from the Canucks ahead of the All-Star break.

Lambert opted to put Johnston on the fourth line with Andy Andreoff and Simon Holmstrom. It was just the 12th game of the season for Johnston, who has been passed over for regular playing time despite myriad injuries to the team throughout December and January.

With a makeshift fourth line at the start that became a makeshift four lines after Barzal left, the Islanders quickly lost any chance they had of putting up a competitive effort in what became an embarrassing defeat.

Lambert didn’t pull goalie Semyon Varlamov despite his struggles, in which he let in six of 27 shots, because he wanted to keep Ilya Sorokin fresh for the game Monday in Pittsburgh. Sorokin played on Friday against the Penguins.

Brock Nelson’s points streak ended at 12 games.

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