Islanders have two chances to right ship before All-Star break
Two games remain before the NHL All-Star break/bye week, and if any team needs an extended rest, it’s the Islanders. Their play this month has made it a very strong likelihood that they again will be taking a long hiatus once the regular season ends in April.
The Islanders will look to snap a six-game losing streak — and perhaps score more than two goals in one match — when they open a two-game homestand against the Red Wings on Friday night. They will face Vegas on Saturday night before getting the next eight days off.
“We’re in a tough spot,” said Brock Nelson, who along with goalie Ilya Sorokin will head to their first All-Star Weekend. “We have two games at home before the break. We want to go and get those two games and give us a chance to reset and make a good push.”
Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Senators to conclude a two-game road trip left the Islanders (23-22-5) in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff position. The Islanders, coming off their first playoff miss since 2018, have only an 18.6% chance of returning to the postseason, per HockeyReference.com.
They have been outscored 36-18 in the last 11 games — in which they have gone 1-7-3 — and have been held to two or fewer goals in 10 of those games. They didn’t score a third-period goal in all 11 games. The Islanders are 3-for-59 (5.1%) on the man advantage in the last 22 games, including 0-for-20 in their last eight.
“We’re pressing and we can’t find a goal when we need it right now,” said first-year coach Lane Lambert, who received a vote of confidence from president/general manager Lou Lamoriello on Wednesday. “We’ve got to find a way. Through this streak here that we’re not going well, we’ll assess, and we’ve got to come out with our best effort on Friday.”
There were two positive developments despite the 0-2 road trip. Top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech and top-six right wing Kyle Palmieri returned to the lineup after lengthy absences in Monday night’s 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.
Pelech played considerably better against the Senators after a rusty, minus-3 performance against the Maple Leafs. Palmieri had a primary assist in each of his first two games back.
But after allowing three breakaway goals to the Maple Leafs, the Islanders gave up several odd-man rushes to the Senators, including three in a row during one sequence.
So both the offensive and defensive performances need drastic improvements for the Islanders to beat the odds and reach the playoffs.
Strong outings against the Red Wings and Golden Knights would allow the Islanders to enjoy their extended vacation with more optimism than there is now.
“We battled, you can’t take that away,” Casey Cizikas said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ve got to find a way to win these games.
“Try to finish off on the right note before this break. We’ve got two big games at home and we need to take advantage of them.”