DETROIT — President and general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz have always insisted through their three-plus seasons in charge of the Islanders — usually when asked about the potential need to acquire a scoring forward — that it’s not about how many goals are scored but the goal differential.
Well, through this 0-8-1 slump, exacerbated by a now-waning COVID-19 outbreak, it has been about a lack of goal- scoring. The Islanders (5-10-3) were outscored 34-8 in those nine games.
The Islanders enter Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena averaging 1.83 goals per game, having scored an NHL-low 33 in 18 games. That’s nine behind the next-worst-scoring team, Arizona and its 42 goals in 23 games (1.83 per game).
The Islanders’ goal differential is a minus-21, tied for the fourth worst in the league. In comparison, the improving Red Wings (12-9-3) are averaging 2.8 goals per game with a goal differential of minus-8.
The last-place Islanders, who have not won since Nov. 6, saw their losing streak grew to nine — albeit with a much-needed point — in Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Sharks at UBS Arena. That
stretch also had scheduled road games against the Rangers last Sunday and the Flyers last Tuesday postponed because of their COVID-19 outbreak.
Of the eight Islanders who tested positive, only Casey Cizikas and defenseman Zdeno Chara remained in COVID-19 protocol against the Sharks.
The Islanders, who did not practice on Friday, will be facing defenseman Nick Leddy for the first time since Lamoriello traded him to the Red Wings on July 16 for salary-cap purposes, acquiring a second-round pick and forward Richard Panik, just reassigned again to AHL Bridgeport on Thursday. The loss of Leddy’s puck-moving ability is one of the main deficiencies in the Islanders’ game right now.
"We’ve just got to worry about the process of playing better and better," Trotz said. "We have to. During a couple of our games here [at UBS Arena], we had a couple of games where we didn’t give up a whole lot. But we didn’t get anything and we didn’t get a point.
"We’ve got another level in our game and we’re going to have to find it. I know the guys coming back from COVID, they want to get there."
One potential good sign on Thursday came as Mathew Barzal, who has five goals and four assists, notched his first point in six games. He raced up the right wing and snapped a shot to the far past for a 1-0 lead 1:04 into the first period.
Barzal centered Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, both in their first games back from COVID-19 protocol.
"Hopefully that gets him going in the right direction," Trotz said. "And hopefully we get a couple more guys going in the right direction."
Notes & quotes: The Islanders, UBS Arena and St. John’s University announced a five-year partnership on Friday. The three groups will work together to develop a graduate business program focusing on sports, entertainment and facilities management. The Islanders and UBS Arena also will offer internships for St. John’s students.