The Islanders had three players in COVID-19 protocol before Saturday. And they added three more just before game-time.
Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Anthony Beauvillier joined Anders Lee, Ross Johnston and Josh Bailey in the protocols, general manager Lou Lamoriello announced. It was the second straight day Lamoriello had a somber message to deliver to the media, dampening what should have been a happy occasion with the opening of UBS Arena before the Isles’ 5-2 loss to the Flames.
“I don’t have anything else,” Lamoriello said upon the announcement. “I wish I had something more positive.”
Lamoriello said Friday that there was no thought to postponing the game Saturday. Asked about that possibility two hours before puck drop, he said, “We do not have the ability to make those decisions. Those decisions are made by the National Hockey League and the medical staff of the [Players’ Association] and National Hockey League.”
The Ottawa Senators had games postponed this week after a raft of positive tests, including one Saturday against the Rangers. Other teams with outbreaks, including the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, have avoided postponements.
In corresponding roster moves, the Islanders added right-winger Richard Panik, left-winger Andy Andreoff, defenseman Paul LaDue and defenseman Grant Hutton before Saturday’s game, filling slots left open by COVID-19 related absences. Anders Lee and Ross Johnston were placed in protocols on Friday, following Josh Bailey earlier in the week.
Panik played on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri, Andreoff on the second line with Brock Nelson and Oliver Wahlstrom. Salo was paired with Scott Mayfield, Hutton with Sebastian Aho.
“Guys that came in were outstanding,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You look at Robin Salo’s first game on defense, I thought Grant Hutton did a really good job. You look at Richard Panik came in, obviously not a rookie but down in Bridgeport, I thought he was one of our stronger wingers. And Andy Anderoff did a real good job.”
Panik, a nine-year NHL veteran, was active with two shots and three hits. Salo also impressed in his debut, blocking four shots and playing on the power play.
Still, missing Lee, Bailey, Pelech and Pulock — among others — gave a bittersweet air to the proceedings.
“It’s tough,” Mayfield said. “I think you find out about Bails first and it’s tough cause he’s been here the longest. He’s gone through some tough years with this organization.”
Nicole Raviv was the first anthem singer in the new building, leading the crowd in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Eight Isles Hall of Famers were on the ice for the puck drop, with Bob Nystrom doing the honors.
The franchise honored the late Charles Wang with a video tribute before the game. Wang, the majority owner from 2001-16, tried for years to build an arena that could replace Nassau Coliseum before selling the team to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, the current ownership group.
The Islanders debuted a jersey patch commemorating their first season at UBS Arena, with an outline of the new building and text reading “Inaugural 2021-22 Season.”