The Islanders liked their last performances against the Penguins, just not the results.
They have a chance to rectify that this weekend against the Penguins to conclude a four-game homestand at Nassau Coliseum. The teams play both Saturday night and late Sunday afternoon to finish six games between them in February.
The Islanders are 1-2-1 so far, including a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Feb. 18 and a well-played 3-2 defeat there two nights later.
"Other than the loss, I didn’t mind the way we played," coach Barry Trotz said after Friday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "We just didn’t get the win."
"These games are big," defenseman Ryan Pulock said. "If you look at the standings, we’ve been kind of fighting for position with them. The past games have been pretty tight. We’ve liked our game in some of those games. But we’ve got to bring our best. We’ve got two games against them and we’ve just got to keep building throughout those two games and try to come up with a couple of wins."
The third-place Islanders (10-6-3) have won the first two games on the homestand — part of a larger stretch of nine of 10 at home — after beating the East Division-leading Bruins, 7-2, on Thursday night. They are two points ahead of the Penguins (10-7-1).
But it’s also likely they will play Saturday’s game without crucial piece Cal Clutterbuck, part of their identity-setting line with center Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin. He exited at 15:03 of the first period against the Bruins with an unspecified injury.
Clutterbuck did not practice on Friday as he received treatment. Trotz listed him as day to day.
That’s also the designation for Michael Dal Colle, who remains on injured reserve with a lower-body injury though he again practiced with the team on Friday.
"He is a possibility for the weekend," Trotz said of Dal Colle. "I’m not saying tomorrow."
Having Dal Colle, who is strong along the walls and on the forecheck, available would certainly help if Clutterbuck cannot play.
But replacing Clutterbuck’s energy and grit has proven difficult before. Last season, Clutterbuck missed 30 games after the skate blade of the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron sliced his left hand and the Islanders went 12-12-6 without him.
"Clutter’s a big piece of that identity line," Jordan Eberle said. "They create a lot of energy. He gets in on forechecks. He gets hit. A lot of times, defensemen are a little slower to make plays because they think he’s coming."
Notes & quotes: Trotz said goalie Cory Schneider is unavailable because of non-hockey related family reasons and he was not listed on the team’s roster on Friday. Jakub Skarek, a third-round pick in 2018 who has played in five of the first six games for the Islanders’ AHL-affiliate in Bridgeport, was placed on the taxi squad as insurance…Trotz has indicated he expects to give both Semyon Varlamov and rookie Ilya Sorokin starts in net this weekend.
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