It took one week into the 2020-21 season, but the Islanders have finally been hit with their first COVID-19 situation.
Josh Bailey, who was missing from practice yesterday for which the team didn’t give an explanation, was placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list last night. Bailey being on the updated ledger was first reported by ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski and later confirmed by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.
Now it’s has not been said that Bailey did indeed test positive for COVID-19; there might be light shed on the situation after the Islanders skate this morning. But it’s easy to assume he that he has has the virus or came in contact with someone who’s had it.
With that said — and the hope is it’s the total opposite of what many suspect — Bailey’s possible absence could open up the door for a few of the Isles forwards to get a chance to play.
Starting with Kieffer Bellows, he was already in Bailey’s second-line spot yesterday with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier. So it’s safe to say if Bailey is out, that could be Bellows role for a little bit.
Bellows when he was drafted was projected to be a top-six forward, but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to be in that spot. He played third-line wing in his short stint last season and started this year in the same role. That particular spot is still a bit of an open competition. Bellows though has done a commendable job thus far and has gotten from head coach Barry Trotz.
“A little bit of limited ice time but I was very comfortable with Kieffer’s game,” Trotz said to the media after the Isles’ win on Monday. “I thought he and Ross Johnston did a good job of establishing a forecheck and a physical game. My comfort level is good with both of those guys.”
If Bellows gets second line duties, Oliver Wahlstrom or Dmytro Timashov could finally get some game action on the third line. So too could Austin Czarnik or Otto Koivula.
All four players have yet to appear in a game while making up the mandated taxi squad.
Trotz has alluded to possibly making changes just to keep his guys and the opposition on their toes, and those four players are all suitable options. With Leo Komarov and Michael Dal Colle (coming back from injury) still on the fringe as well, they all have the ability to provide a shot in the arm for a bottom-six which has only accounted for one of the five Islanders goals through three games.
Missing Bailey for a bit might hurt the Islanders. He’s one of their most important two-way forwards and a reliable asset. But it could be a blessing in disguise.
That being an opportunity for some of the kids on the team to make some noise with him out.
For as much turbulence as there’s been in the relationship between the Islanders and Josh Ho-Sang, there’s obviously still hope there he has a future in the organization.
In a column from The Athletic today, Barry Trotz showed his support for Ho-Sang, who just began his new opportunity with Orebro over in Sweden.
“He’s a talented young man with a lot of skills,” Trotz said. “Just let him play in Europe, it could be great for him. Maybe the player in him just puts it together this year. I hope he has a ton of success there.”
The Islanders’ transition to UBS Arena continues to get closer each day. And with that there’s always new updates.
Last night was the latest and two things were made crystal clear: the facility will be home to the best ice in the NHL and the building will be ready for the start of next season “no matter what”.
The full clip from the team can be seen below:
750,000 bricks, 9,700 tons of structural steel and countless hours of hard work. 💪
Get an inside look at @UBSArena with Managing Partner, Richard Browne, as the construction of our future home has reached the halfway point! 🤩
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 21, 2021