Islander Diary: Skating in Barzal with the team, Chara Close and Koivula Development

As we prepare for the New York Islanders contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets, let’s open the Islanders notebook:

Mathew Barzal back on the ice

For the first time since suffering a lower-body injury on Feb. 26, Mathew Barzal took to the ice with his teammates on Thursday morning.

As announced earlier, Mathew Barzal will not be in the lineup Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After observing him in training, he seemed to move cautiously, with no real quick movements.

Barzal did not participate in line rushes or power play units. He will miss his sixth straight fight, and with the Islanders 22 points off the wildcard spot in the East, there’s no real reason to rush the 24-year-old center into the lineup.

“I think we want to know a little more. (It was) his first time skating with the group,” New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “So we’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

Zdeno Chara Close

For the second consecutive skate, Zdeno Chara, 44, was back on the ice Thursday morning, but he will also miss his sixth consecutive fight. Chara suffered an upper body injury on February 26 and is currently still on injured reserve.

In skating, Zdeno Chara looks like he’s been watching all season, and Trotz said he’s close to returning, but with the back-to-back situation Thursday and Friday, the Islanders wanted to give him an extra day.

“We just want to give him one more day with his consecutive injury, but he feels really good on the ice,” Trotz said. “So I think he’s really getting closer there.”

Zdeno Chara is likely to return to the second-line defensive duo on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. We’ll see if and when the Islanders skate Friday morning.

I previously reported that the New York Islanders would be looking to move Zdeno Chara to a playoff contender. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun later said the teams contacted New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello about the 24-year-old NHL player.

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching, as March 21 will be an interesting day.

Where is Koivula?

New York Islanders prospect Otto Koivula is with the New York Islanders for the second time this season.

With Mathew Barzal on the shelf, a game-time decision last Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, Otto Koivula was on hold. When Barzal couldn’t go, Koivula was there.

Saturday was his fourth game of the season with New York, as he skated on the third line and played a limited number of minutes in the 2-1 victory.

Koivula wasn’t in the lineup Monday in the 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, but according to practice Thursday morning, he’ll be on a line with Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom.

“He’s a young, young player who’s a great body who went from winger to center,” Trotz said of Koivula and his development. “And I think maturity has caught up with the body, and now his game is starting to show that.”

“I think he’s done what all young players do, which is to keep developing their game. He’s growing it physically. He’s growing it emotionally. And I think he is well placed. It’s, it’s a good prospect.

The 23-year-old forward was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft and played four seasons with the Bridgeport Islanders. This season at Bridgeport, Koivula has scored 10 goals and registered 26 assists in 43 games.

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