Mathew Barzal earns third All-Star nod after strong Islanders start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Mathew Barzal was named an All-Star for the third time in his career on Thursday as the NHL released its initial list of players who will head to Toronto a month from now with one from each team.

Barzal was also an All-Star in 2019 and 2020, winning fastest skater in the latter year when he was just .003 seconds off an all-time record in the competition.

The Islanders’ winger changed positions from center to accommodate Bo Horvat’s arrival last February and has turned in an excellent start to the season playing alongside him.

Barzal is on pace to average over a point per game for just the second time in his career with 39 points in the season’s first 37 games following a two-assist night in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Coyotes.

“It’s nice to be selected,” Barzal said. “Obviously we have some guys on the team that have had great starts, there could’ve been a few of us that [could’ve] gone. Hopefully some of the other boys get voted in.

Mathew Barzal was named the Islanders’ All-Star representative Thursday. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

“It is exciting. You’re around the best in the game. That’s where I want to be. Looking forward to it.”

Barzal marked the occasion by scoring his 400th career point in the form of a first-period assist to Mike Reilly.

“I’m very happy for him,” coach Lane Lambert said. “When you’re an All-Star in the National Hockey League, it’s a pretty special thing and he’s a special player.”

The Islanders have multiple other players with a chance to be named in the fan voting, which selects the final 12 All-Stars and closes on Jan. 11, in particular Horvat and defenseman Noah Dobson.

Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck while being defended by Liam O'Brien #38 of the Arizona Coyotes
Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders skates with the puck while being defended by Liam O’Brien of the Arizona Coyotes. NHLI via Getty Images

Brock Nelson and Ilya Sorokin, who represented the club last year in South Florida, could both have a shot as well.

Semyon Varlamov is day-to-day with a lower-body injury after leaving Tuesday’s loss to the Avalanche during the first period, Lambert said.

“There’s no sense of when he might be able to play,” Lambert said. “He’s day-to-day and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Varlamov did remain with the Islanders on the road.

AHL call-up Ken Appleby backed up Sorokin in Varlamov’s absence on Thursday.

Sebastian Aho rejoined the lineup with Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) on injured reserve after appearing to hurt his right leg on a hit from Samuel Girard on Tuesday.

“Robert came in and did a tremendous job of providing leadership, so really good in the locker room. You really lose that, that’s a very important piece of the puzzle,” Lambert said. “And he’s big and he’s tough. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt.”

Matt Martin drew back in for Hudson Fasching, skating with usual suspects Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck on the fourth line.

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