The absurd nature of his goal was not lost on Jordan Eberle.
Because, as he recalled after the Islanders’ 4-1 win over the league-worst Red Wings at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Friday night, the first of his three goals was hardly a thing of beauty.
“The first one went right off my knee,” Eberle said. “The biggest thing is just to keep going to the areas where you think you can score. It’s just a funny game like that.”
As the Islanders enter the final stretch of the season — which Eberle described as “playoff games” — the team is cognizant of what needs to be done to be one of the 16 teams playing in April. And May. And June.
Starting with scoring goals.
To a man, the Islanders acknowledged the dismal results of their recent four-game western road trip: four losses and two goals scored. But as coach Barry Trotz stressed, the lack of wins was not because of lack of effort.
“We had a tough start on the trip,” he said. “Went into Vegas and had about two really good periods but gave up a goal that was a little bit [unfortunate]. Went into Arizona and probably deserved to win that game [but hit] four or five posts; doesn’t come easy.
“And then last game against Colorado, I thought we put a pretty good effort, just couldn’t find the back of the net as well, but they were going pretty [well]. We’ve been playing teams that are desperate. We’re desperate. We [didn’t get] the results so we got to make sure we get some results.”
The question is whether the four-goal performance against the moribund Red Wings was the start to a strong finishing kick or the predictable outcome when a playoff contender takes on a franchise looking forward to the draft lottery.
Ahead of Sunday’s late-afternoon start against the Sharks at the Coliseum, the Islanders rank 22nd in the league in goals (169) and goals per game (2.82). But they have been outscored 62-58 in the 22 games they have played in the new calendar year.
As a result, they have gone 9-10-3 and find themselves in a five-team race for the two Eastern Conference wild-card slots.
All of which has led to questions about whether the Islanders should try to land Mike Hoffman or Ilya Kovalchuk or Chris Kreider before Monday’s NHL trade deadline or if it is more prudent to stand pat and try to add established offensive help in the offseason.
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