LAS VEGAS — The Islanders have arrived in this newest NHL city with two days before they face the Golden Knights, improbably the league’s best team as the season nears the All-Star break.
Even if Vegas were behaving like a normal (read: lousy) expansion team, it would be a tough out at home. This is Sin City after all, with myriad ways to distract players before they take the ice.
Given the Islanders’ precarious spot in the standings and the Golden Knights’ 18-2-2 home record entering Tuesday’s game with the Blue Jackets, this stop may have some down time to start but Doug Weight wants it to be all business when his team hits the ice for practice on Wednesday.
The Isles were off on Tuesday and the team had its annual rookie dinner. GM Garth Snow assembled his pro scouting staff for meetings here this week with the trade deadline now 32 days away and his team still on the outer edge of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I have no worries. We’ll see, but we’ve got work to do,” Weight said on Monday night after his team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Coyotes in Glendale. “We’ve got scouts in town, meetings. They are men and this is a key time of the year. Vegas is a real good team, I think they’ve lost twice at home and it’ll be a real good test for us. We’ll start preparing, get a good practice in on Wednesday and hopefully a great effort for the game.”
Their effort on Monday against the league-worst Coyotes was solid enough, Weight and his players felt, but the result was lacking. The Islanders never led in the game, needing Anthony Beauvillier goals to rally in the second and third. Once they knotted the game 2-2, the Islanders were by far the better team, but fell in overtime despite 18 shots on Antti Raanta in the third and OT.
The Islanders may get one of their injured players back on Thursday. Weight said Casey Cizikas, out since Jan. 13 with a hand injury, could return to face the Golden Knights. “If it’s not Thursday you could certainly see him the Tuesday after the (All-Star) break,” Weight said.
Whether Cizikas returns or not, the Islanders have their work cut out for them here. Tuesday was for rest and relaxation, but the Islanders seem to know what comes after that.
“For us, last game before the break, we need those two points,” Jordan Eberle said. “We have to finish the road trip and head into the little break strong.”
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