The Islanders know they have to do some damage control against the Red Wings on Tuesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum as they open a three-game homestand.
A 6-2 loss to the rival Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden which was deficient in every aspect will do that.
“You’re going to have tough nights,” captain Anders Lee said after Tuesday’s optional skate in East Meadow. “But you don’t want to have to have those every three, four games. We can’t be in this rotation of getting woken and then having a good game. We need to get a little more consistent in that sense. Every time you have a loss like last night, it’s going to sit with you for sure.”
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But what the Islanders, in a 2-3-1 skid and just 4-5-2 since Dec. 21, cannot afford to do is overlook the NHL-worst Red Wings with a rematch with the Rangers lurking Thursday at the Coliseum.
“We just talked about that,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s the great thing about this game. You get an opportunity to sort of right the ship a little bit and feel better about our game within 24 hours. That’s within our control. Detroit, they’re playing free right now. They’re playing hard. We’ve just got to make sure we’re playing our game. Last night, we got away from what we can do well and when we get away from it, we’re not good at that.”
To be specific: The Islanders spent a good portion of the final 58 minutes of Monday’s loss fumbling the puck and giving away way too much time and space on the ice. It led to a parade of odd-man rushes for the speedy Rangers – particularly Artemi Panarin, who had two goals and three assists – and way too many chances around the Islanders’ net.
The Islanders will be without invaluable fourth-line center Casey Cizikas for a second straight game after he took a David Pastrnak power-play shot to the groin in Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins at Barclays Center. Trotz, not committing publicly to a lineup for Tuesday, said it was possible Otto Koivula, recalled from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport on Monday, could play.
But Trotz downplayed concern that Cizikas’ absence could be a long-term one.
“He won’t be in tonight, but I don’t think he’s too long-term,” Trotz said. “He’s hoping maybe the next Ranger game. It’s a bad case of what it appeared to be. But not to the point where it’s long-term.”
The Red Wings, who actually had a two-game winning streak snapped in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the visiting Sabres, also have injury problems.
It was announced on Monday starting goalie Jonathan Bernier would be out with a lower-body issue until, most likely, the All-Star break. So, Jimmy Howard will get the bulk of the work for now. He is 2-15-1 with a 4.10 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage this season and hasn’t won a game since Oct. 29
Key cogs Danny DeKeyser (back), Anthony Mantha (upper body) and Andreas Anthanasiou (lower body) are also injured.
Goalie Thomas Greiss is expected to start for the Islanders after stopping the one shot he faced against the Rangers after relieving Semyon Varlamov at 10:15 of the third period.
“Our focus is on tonight,” said Islanders left wing Matt Martin, who played just 10 seconds against the Rangers on Monday before receiving a game misconduct following his fight with Brendan Smith at 2:13 of the first period. “It was a pretty disappointing effort by us as a group yesterday. So, to move on from it quickly and right the ship, we have an opportunity to do that tonight. Let’s not be fooled. They have some pretty good players over there. I know their record doesn’t indicate that but they can score goals and we need to be ready for them. Most importantly, we’ve just got to play our game and get back to what we do best.”
Red Wings top-line center Dylan Larkin has two goals and four assists in a six-game point streak. The game will also be the first back at the Coliseum for center Valtteri Filppula after he signed a two-year, $6 million deal to return to the Red Wings following one season with the Islanders.
The Islanders won, 4-1, at Detroit on Dec. 2 as Jordan Eberle scored two of his five goals this season. But the top-six right wing has shown some signs his season-long offensive slumber is ending with two goals in his last three games.
Here are the projected lineups:
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Mathew Barzal-Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle-Derick Brassard-Tom Kuhnhackl
Matt Martin-Otto Koivula-Leo Komarov
Nick Leddy-Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson-Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Greiss (12-7-0, 2.57 goals-against average, .919 save percentage)
Red Wings (12-31-3)
Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Robby Fabbri
Adam Erne-Valtteri Filppula-Filip Zadina
Darren Helm-Frans Nielsen-Luke Glendening
Justin Abdelkader-Christoffer Ehn-Givani Smith
Patrik Nemeth-Mike Green
Filip Hronek-Madison Bowey
Brian Lashoff-Alex Biega
Jimmy Howard (2-15-1, 4.10, .880)