Islanders, Rangers taking a big step toward restarting the NHL season

Islanders, Rangers taking a big step toward restarting the NHL season

The Islanders’ practice facility reopened for voluntary small-group workouts Monday as Phase 2 of the NHL’s “Return to Play” plan officially kicked off.

A limited group of players, including Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, Thomas Greiss and Cal Clutterbuck, was featured in Monday’s workout at Northwell Health Ice Center, in East Meadow. Scott Mayfield, Devon Toews and Chris Gibson – who served as the starting goaltender for the team’s AHL affiliate this season – were also seen walking into the facility Monday.

The Rangers plan to reopen the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown beginning Tuesday.

Speaking on a Zoom call with reporters following the Islanders’ workout Monday, Bailey said the group “went too crazy on Day 1” but it was nice to get back out on the ice with teammates.

“After three months, just a little bit of rust so you just get out there and get your legs underneath you, move the puck around a little bit, get some shots, just kind of go over the basic stuff,” Bailey said. “Then as we go begin to ramp up the conditioning side of things, make sure you do a little bit this week. Just keep progressing closer and closer we get to camp. “

The Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
The Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Bailey mentioned that he took a COVID-19 test this past weekend and another one Monday before participating in a small-group workout. He also said he expects to go into the practice facility three times this week.

Players who participate in Phase 2 are expected to remain in the same group of six or less to limit potential exposure until the league moves into Phase 3, which will conduct formal training camp to prepare for the 24-team playoff tournament that was approved last month. . The league informed players at the end of May that the third phase will not take place until at least July 10.

Coaches and other personnel are allowed to observe during Phase 2, but not skate. Additionally, players are permitted to work out or skate at other facilities during this time.

Bailey, who welcomed a baby girl to his family during the quarantine, said he was more “anxious” to get back to playing hockey as opposed to being worried about his health. However, it’s been a challenge for Bailey to imagine what Phase 4 and the NHL’s 24-team playoff format will look like.

“I think it’s really just getting your head wrapped around that it’s going to be different. No matter how it all comes together, when, how, if whatever the case may be, it’s not going to be something that’s accustomed to, ”he said. “Yeah we might come out to an empty building but still with the guys, you still kind of have that whole routine that we would normally go through.”

Scott Mayfield heads to his car following a workout Monday at the Islanders' facility in East Meadow.
Scott Mayfield heads to his car following a workout Monday at the Islanders’ facility in East Meadow.N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Bailey admitted he had wondered how long he had had to be away from his wife and kids.

“But all parties are going to be part of it,” he said. “We have to make sacrifices here and there when the time comes.”

Rangers who are known to be in the area include Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith and Julien Gauthier. However, it’s still unkown who will participate in Tuesday’s voluntary workout.

Igor Shesterkin’s agent, Rick Komarow, told The Post that the rookie netminder has been training in Florida and is planning to be on the ice later this week. He is expected to remain in Florida for the time being.