NEWARK – The Islanders need an encore. Preferably one with more offensive production.
They conclude a back-to-back and a stretch of four games in six days against the Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center after defeating the potent Avalanche, 1-0, on Monday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
That win snapped a two-game losing streak and a four-game losing streak at the Coliseum – the visiting Devils beat them 2-1 on Thursday night – but the Islanders still have scored two or fewer goals in five of their last seven games. That includs being shut out for the second time this season in a 3-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday night.
The Islanders did not hold a morning skate on Tuesday. But coach Barry Trotz confirmed on Monday that Thomas Greiss will make his first start in six games after Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season against the Avalanche, his former team the previous eight seasons.
Greiss’ last appearance came in a 5-2 loss at Chicago on Dec. 27. He was pulled at 11:56 of the first period after allowing three goals on 11 shots.
He is 11-7-0 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, but he has won only one of his last six starts, a 32-save effort in a 3-1 victory at Florida on Dec. 12.
Varlamov made 29 saves in the loss to the Devils.
“How curious am I?” Trotz said when asked about seeing how Greiss responds after his longest layoff of the season. “I’m not curious at all. I say I have a one-A and a one-B [goalie] and I never know which they are. They’ve both been a big part of where we are. Varly has had a number of games. Greisser is proud. He’s a good goaltender. He’s going to want to respond. He wants a piece of the net, no question. He’s extremely competitive.”
The Devils, in last place in the Metropolitan Division, had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Avalanche on Saturday. Still, they are on a 4-1-1 run and are 6-6-2 under interim coach Alain Nasreddine. The Devils' former coach, John Hynes, was hired on Tuesday to replace Peter Laviolette in Nashville.
The Islanders played well for the first 30 minutes of their loss to the Devils, taking a 1-0 lead before their offense dried up. P.K. Subban scored the equalizer at 18:33 of the second period and Nico Hischier’s unassisted goal at 1:09 of the third period was the winner. Both scores came after Brock Nelson lost defensive-zone faceoffs.
“I think you’ve just got to put it away,” Greiss said. “You want to take a lesson out of it and move forward. There’s not too much time to dwell on stuff. You’ve got to move forward.
“They are a hard-working team,” Greiss added. “They’re a young team and fast. They play pretty loose. They don’t have too much pressure going for them but they’re a good team. Especially lately, they’ve been playing really well.”
The Islanders have put together back-to-back games of the solid defensive structure and goaltending key to any success they have.
But they can’t win consistently if they can’t score consistently.
Trotz said some of the issue is the Islanders have not been aggressive enough driving to the crease.
“To me, it’s always a test,” Trotz said. “When you’re not playing well defensively, what happens is you fix that up and you play better but you probably still give up a couple of goals. I think, offensively, it’s the same thing. In this league, teams defend really hard. They trap hard. You’ve got to work as hard offensively as you do defensively. Sometimes, I think we left ourselves short a little bit there.”
The Devils will be without No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes (upper body) for the third straight game and Jesper Bratt (lower body) for the second game in a row.
The Islanders are 3-1-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets.
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Mathew Barzal-Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle-Derick Brassard-Tom Kuhnhackl
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Leo Komarov
Nick Leddy-Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson-Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Greiss (11-7-0, 2.58 goals-against average, .919 save percentage)
Wayne Simmonds-Nico Hischier-Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman-Travis Zajac-Nikita Gusev
Jesper Boqvist-Pavel Zacha-Miles Wood
Ben Street-Kevin Rooney-John Hayden
Andy Greene-P.K. Subban
Damon Severson-Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher-Mirco Mueller
Mackenzie Blackwood (14-11-5, 2.83, .908)
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