The Islanders have won three straight, albeit the last two in overtime, and five of seven since captain Anders Lee suffered a season-ending torn right anterior cruciate ligament. They are right in the mix for first place in the East Division.
And coach Barry Trotz is getting increasingly comfortable with his revamped lineup.
"I think we’re settled in right now," Trotz said after the Islanders practiced in Pittsburgh on Friday. "I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of change. I think I have a good handle on what’s working and which guys seem to complement each other enough that gives us good balance."
The Islanders conclude a four-game road trip with games against the Penguins on Saturday and Monday nights. They beat the Bruins, 4-3, in overtime on Thursday after topping the Flyers, 2-1, on Monday.
The Islanders are four points ahead of the third-place Penguins as those two teams along with the Capitals have separated from the pack in the East. The Bruins, after having two games postponed this week because of COVID-19 issues, including Tuesday against the Islanders, have played five fewer games than the Islanders and Penguins.
These mark the last two regular-season games between the Islanders and Penguins after they met six times in 23 days in February. The Islanders were 2-2-2 in those games whereas they’ve won all five games against the Bruins so far.
Though Trotz is comfortable with his lineup, he knows the fast-skating Penguins and future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby present different challenges from the Bruins, who play a similar, straight-line game to the Islanders.
"It’s a new opponent," Trotz said. "They play a little differently. You look at the game in front of you and you take care of business and stay in the moment."
Trotz had grinder Leo Komarov in Lee’s former spot on top-line center Mathew Barzal’s left wing along with Jordan Eberle for the third straight game on Thursday. It also marked the third game hard-working left wing Michael Dal Colle has been on Brock Nelson’s second line with Josh Bailey. And the third game speedy left wing Anthony Beauvillier, who scored both overtime winners, has been on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line with rookie Oliver Wahlstrom.
Dal Colle (maintenance day) was the only Islander who did not practice on Friday. But Trotz did not sound overly concerned about him missing Saturday’s game.
Wahlstrom extended his point streak to five games against the Bruins with his fourth goal in that span. Josh Bailey scored his second goal in three games on Thursday.
The streaky Beauvillier has goals in three straight games after going eight games without a goal.
"A few guys that we needed to get going a little bit off the schneid have gotten going with some of the changes," Trotz said.
Trotz is also likely to give each of his goalies a start in Pittsburgh. Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves in Boston and Ilya Sorokin has won eight straight starts, a franchise record for rookie netminders.