VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Islanders will open a four-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Canucks technically out of a playoff spot, though they are tied in points with the Hurricanes for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. (Carolina has two more regulation wins.)
And if the Islanders are going to reverse their recent struggles — a current 0-3-3 skid overall and a six-game road losing streak — Vancouver product Mathew Barzal’s continued growth and production will play a big part.
There are growing pains, of course. Barzal’s four-minute high-stick on Jordan Staal led to Vincent Trocheck’s power-play winner in overtime as the Islanders lost to the Hurricanes, 3-2, on Saturday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
But the top-line center also has had several dominant performances through the losing streak, recording a goal and 10 assists in his last nine games.
“I feel like I’ve been playing like this for a while now,” said Barzal, who grew up in Coquitlam, British Columbia, part of the greater Vancouver metropolitan area. “So I’m just trying to keep that consistency. I feel like even a few games on the road trip where we weren’t scoring, we still played some good hockey. Yeah, we haven’t gotten the results, but our compete level has been there and, at some point, hopefully it turns for us.”
Time is running out for that to happen.
The Islanders, who have 15 regular-season games left, also will play the playoff-contending Flames, Oilers and Penguins on this road trip. They went 0-4-0 on their last four-game road trip, totaling only two goals against the Predators, Golden Knights, Coyotes and Avalanche and being shut out twice.
The last game on that trip, a 3-1 loss in Colorado on Feb. 19, coincides with the start of a productive period for Barzal and his linemates, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. Eberle has five goals and four assists and Lee has three goals and six assists in the nine-game span.
But coach Barry Trotz noted that Barzal still needs to be more consistent with his defensive efforts when the points are not coming.
“It’s the other parts of the game that separate you from being a good player to being a great player,” Trotz said, adding that he does see Barzal taking strides in his overall game.
Notes & quotes: Johnny Boychuk, who has missed two games after taking a skate blade to his left eyelid and requiring 90 stitches, came onto the ice as Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena was concluding. He was not wearing any extra facial protection. “It’s just great to have him around,” Josh Bailey said. “We were all really concerned for him, so to see him back looking good and healing up is promising for sure.” Boychuk was not made available to the media . . . Casey Cizikas (left leg laceration), out since Feb. 11, did not join the Islanders on the trip but Trotz said he skated in New York on Monday.
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