The Islanders limped home, officially a little healthier with the returns of Brian Strait and Evgeni Nabokov, but far more battered and bruised mentally than before they left on a five-game road trip through five of the top Western Conference cities.
They came back with only one shootout win and only four points total in their last 12 games (1-9-2). Even the weak Metropolitan Division is threatening to leave the Islanders behind before Christmas.
At 9-19-5, the Islanders have their worst record through 33 games since 1999-2000, when the Butch Goring-coached Isles sported an identical record -- and went on to finish last in the NHL with only 58 points.
And there was one addition to the injury report. Casey Cizikas left Thursday night's game midway through the first period after taking a forearm to the jaw as he attempted to hit Coyotes rookie defenseman Connor Murphy.
Cizikas traveled home with the Islanders Friday and was scheduled to see a team doctor Saturday morning to determine a diagnosis. If his jaw is broken, it might require surgery. That likely would keep Cizikas out at least a month.
Whether Cizikas is in the lineup or not, Ryan Strome will make his debut Saturday night at the Coliseum against the Canadiens. Strome, coming off back-to-back AHL player of the week awards, traveled to Phoenix on Wednesday to meet the team after his recall, but coach Jack Capuano decided let Strome get acclimated to the Islanders' ways before putting the 20-year-old rookie in the lineup.
What Strome watched Thursday night wasn't exactly a well-executed game plan. The 6-3 loss to the Coyotes featured an ugly performance by the Islanders in their own zone, as they allowed loads of time and space to a Phoenix team that doesn't often score in bunches.
"We hung [Kevin Poulin] out to dry," John Tavares said after the Isles allowed more than four goals for the 10th time this season. "It's the same breakdowns and mistakes we've been talking about for a long time."
After 11 losses in their past 12 road games, perhaps a stay at home will help. Saturday night's game kicks off a run of three straight at the Coliseum and five straight in the area -- four home games and the Isles' first visit to Madison Square Garden on Friday.