The Islanders and Lane Lambert exited UBS Arena for their three-day NHL holiday break with plenty of good cheer.
“Fantastic. How’s that?” the coach said with a laugh when asked to put into words just how big a difference it was for the team to head into the break off a good win rather than a loss.
The Islanders (19-14-2) will resume their season against the Penguins on Tuesday night in the middle match of a three-game homestand. They snapped a two-game losing streak with Friday night’s 5-1 win over the Panthers and are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since a four-game winning streak from Nov. 21-26.
“It’s just a good example of a good hockey game from us,” Anders Lee said after Friday’s victory. “Really solid throughout from [goalie Ilya] Sorokin on out. Definitely a template for how we want to play and create opportunities, shots, and limit as much as we can. It definitely is a good example of what we’re trying to do here.”
The Islanders outshot the Panthers 43-24 and outchanced them 80-46, scoring three times in the third period after trailing 1-0 after one.
No practices or team activities were allowed during the holiday break, so there is uncertainty as to which Islanders players will be available for Tuesday’s game.
Defenseman Adam Pelech (suspected head injury), goalie Semyon Varlamov (lower body) and forwards Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) and Kyle Palmieri (upper body) remain on injured reserve, though all are eligible to be activated.
Fourth-line center Casey Cizikas (upper body) was hurt in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and right wing Simon Holmstrom (left leg) and second-line center Brock Nelson (upper body) exited against the Panthers.
Center Aatu Raty and defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, who made their NHL debuts against the Panthers, no longer were listed on the roster Monday. Neither was Hudson Fasching, who has been filling in for Clutterbuck.
So it will be interesting to see who is or isn’t on the ice for the morning skate Tuesday.
The Penguins (19-9-5) went into the holiday on an 8-1-1 streak to surge into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are three points ahead of the Islanders, who trail the Capitals by two points for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
It is the first of four games against the Penguins this season, and the Islanders don’t open their four-game season series against the Capitals until Jan. 16. They also have two games remaining against the first-place Hurricanes and one against the second-place Devils. But the Islanders have completed their season series with the Rangers, who hold the first wild-card spot.
The Islanders just need to string together wins, regardless of the opponent.
“It’s a situation where you need to get rewarded at some point for your efforts,” Lambert said. “I thought our guys did that [against the Panthers]. So it was important.”