Kyle Palmieri #21 of the Islanders looks on after the...

Kyle Palmieri #21 of the Islanders looks on after the Buffalo Sabres scored an empty net goal in the third period at UBS Arena on Saturday, March 25, 2023 in Elmont, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Maybe the Islanders again will raise their game to the level of the competition. Maybe they will rebound from their lost weekend and continue their playoff push.

Maybe they will finish strong in their final eight games of the regular season and make more sense of president/general manager Lou Lamoriello’s decision to acquire top-six forwards Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall before the trade deadline but not bring in any defense help while holding on to players who could have been moved for future draft capital or organizational assets.

But really, there’s no telling what kind of effort the Islanders will give when they face the playoff-bound Devils on Monday night at UBS Arena. Not after garnering just one of four possible points against the Eastern Conference-worst Blue Jackets on the road and the visiting Sabres, who are creeping back toward the fringe of playoff contention (they are six points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot).

The Islanders (37-28-9) hold a one-point lead on the Penguins for the conference’s first wild-card spot, with the Panthers four points back. Both the Penguins and Panthers have played one fewer game than the Islanders, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.

“There are some good teams [coming up],” Kyle Palmieri said of a week that also includes a road trip against the fringe-of-contention Capitals, the three-time conference champion Lightning and the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes.

“We’re looking forward to it. This weekend didn’t go the way we wanted it to. But no time to hang our heads. Get ready for a good team coming in here Monday.”

Palmieri’s brutally honest answer that “we didn’t really come ready to play” after Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss in Columbus encapsulated the disappointing back-to-back set.

The Islanders followed with a 2-0 loss to the Sabres on Saturday in a game that was 0-0 heading to the third (the Sabres scored an empty-netter in the final minute). It was the fifth time the Islanders had been shut out this season but the first since Dec. 19.

“One of those games with not a ton of chances either way for a little bit,” said Anders Lee, adding that the Islanders’ performance “just wasn’t good enough.”

He added, “Kind of a grinding-type game. We knew going into the third we just needed to get the first [goal]. They got the bounce that gave them the lead and with five, six minutes left, we weren’t able to tie it.”

The Islanders are 14-5-4 since Jan. 27, including an 8-3-0 mark against teams currently holding playoff spots. So there’s evidence that they can find that defensive consistency, that grinding mentality on the forecheck that gets them wins against the NHL’s better teams.

But their continued power-play struggles and inability to fill Mathew Barzal’s spot on the top line with Horvat and Lee— it was Josh Bailey’s turn against the Sabres — are very noticeable against weaker opponents.

The power play is 2-for-19 in the last seven games. Said coach Lane Lambert after the loss to the Sabres: “I saw that the power play just didn’t execute.”

More Islanders

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME