The NHL announced Saturday that the New York Islanders have had their schedule postponed through at least the end of November because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the club.
The Islanders have dealt with an increasingly depleted lineup for several games, and forward Casey Cizikas entered COVID protocols Saturday. That meant New York could potentially be without eight regular skaters moving forward, so the league decided to shut the team down and try to contain the spread.
Players already unavailable before Saturday due to COVID were forwards Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston, and defensemen Zdeno Chara, Adam Pelech and Andy Greene.
The Islanders were scheduled to play the New York Rangers on Sunday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The NHL will reschedule those games and reevaluate the Islanders' remaining slate accordingly once the club has a better handle on the health of its players.
New York has been under strain with COVID issues for nearly two weeks, but never seemed to hit a threshold number of absences that forced the league to step in until Saturday's development.
The NHL postponed games for the Ottawa Senators earlier this month when 10 players and an assistant coach were placed in COVID protocols. But previously this season, when the San Jose Sharks were without seven skaters because of the virus and the Pittsburgh Penguins had multiple players as well as coach Mike Sullivan dealing with illness, there were no cancellations.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said each decision is made in conjunction with medical staffs and pandemic-related matters are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Prior to the Islanders recently opening their new home rink, UBS Arena, amid the outbreak, general manager Lou Lamoriello was asked his thoughts on why the NHL hadn't seen fit to pause New York's season to that point.
"I have no knowledge of what the threshold is," Lamoriello told reporters. "I believe that's in the hands of the doctors, both in the National Hockey League and the Players' Association and the infectious disease people. I've asked the question, but I don't know if there is [a certain number of illnesses needed to postpone games]."
Now at least the Islanders will have a chance to regroup. They already had to start the season with a 13-game road trip while UBS Arena was being finished. That, plus the loss of so many players, have been major factors in New York's 5-10-2 start to the season, and current placement at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings.