Road trip gave Islanders some confidence entering matchup with Rangers
Getting away was nice. It was important. But it’s good to be home.
That, essentially, is how the Islanders summarized their last week-and-a-half going into Thursday night's game against the Rangers at the Garden.
“It was a longer trip [and] we competed hard,” Josh Bailey said after practice Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. The Islanders finished a four-game stretch against the Bruins, Coyotes, Golden Knights, and defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche with a 1-1-2 mark.
Of those four teams, only Arizona is not currently in playoff position. So to return home with four out of a possible eight points was viewed as a positive.
“You get into overtime [or a] shootout, it’s a bit of a tossup,” Bailey said. “That could easily be six [points], right? You can’t dwell on those things. I thought we did some good things. We had some good games, [and] played solid.”
Which they are hoping they can carry over into their last two games before the NHL CBA-mandated holiday break.
The Islanders (18-13–2) will wrap up this stretch following Thursday’s regular season-series finale against the Rangers (18-11-5), and Friday night’s match at UBS Arena against Florida.
After Friday night’s games, the league pauses for the Christmas holiday, with the season resuming Tuesday, Dec. 27.
Entering the last of three games between the local rivals, both the Rangers and Islanders are feeling positive about the way they are playing. The Rangers have won seven-of-eight while the Islanders are 3-3-2 in their last eight.
“It’s getting there,” Anders Lee said, when asked to describe the state of the Islanders game. “It’s constantly building. The most important thing [with the] process at this point in the season is getting yourself and the team to be [on] the same pages as much as possible and playing the right way as much as possible.
“You’re going to have bumps and kinks around the road but at this point in the season it’s really about getting that consistency, knowing what our game is.”
Through the first 33 games of the season, the Islanders have been consistent, as they haven’t had a losing streak longer than three games (they have only dropped three-in-a-row twice this season, the first time from Oct. 20-23 and again Dec. 10-16. As such, they hold the Eastern Conference’s second wild card slot.
“It’s a veteran group,” Lee said. “It’s a long season. You can’t dwell on a loss for too long; can’t let it get in your way. And I think our group is [really] good about rebounding and knowing and understanding the importance of the next night and getting right back at it.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders announced Cal Clutterbuck was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 16 with an upper-body injury. He joins Adam Pelech (undisclosed) on the IR. The two, along with Kyle Palmieri (day-to-day, upper-body) and Semyon Varlamov (day-to-day), did not participate in practice. Instead, the Islanders called up Hudson Fasching, Simon Holmstrom, and Cory Schneider from AHL Bridgeport. The trio fully participated in the 45-minute session Coach Lane Lambert said Palmieri has begun skating on his own but Pelech has not.