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Morale not as low as you think, but Isles still need a win to end losing streak

Mathew Barzal late during the third period against

Mathew Barzal late during the third period against the Calgary Flames at UBS Arena on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The gloom and doom naturally projected onto the Islanders from outside is not matched within the team’s room. The players have remained upbeat through a COVID-19 outbreak, a spate of injuries and the resulting losing streak.

That, however, did not change the fact the Islanders need to turn their fortunes around.

They had lost seven straight entering Friday night’s game against the Penguins — the teams’ first meeting since the Islanders’ six-game win in the first round of last season’s playoffs — to conclude their first homestand at UBS Arena.

That certainly has tempered the preseason Stanley Cup-or-bust projections after back-to-back berths in the NHL semifinals.

"The morale is probably better than you guys think," Mathew Barzal said before Friday’s game. "We understand the circumstances we’ve faced the last week and a half, two weeks, and it’s obviously unfortunate. The veteran guys are going to be the ones that are going to have to pull our group out. Credit to the younger guys that got called up from Bridgeport [AHL]; they’ve played extremely hard and laid everything out there. It’s up to us as a group and us as veterans to step up and come through."

Anders Lee, Kieffer Bellows, Ross Johnston and defensemen Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara remain in COVID-19 protocol and Josh Bailey was not ready to play Friday after being removed from the COVID-19 list.

Defenseman Noah Dobson, who missed Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers with a lower-body issue, participated in Friday’s morning skate, though defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) and Brock Nelson (lower body) remain on injured reserve.

The Islanders lost each of the previous seven games by at least a three-goal margin and were outscored 12-3 in their first three games in their new $1.1 billion home.

"I don’t think it’s a secret and we’re well aware that it’s been tough to produce offense as of late," Zach Parise said. "The goals haven’t been coming like we’d like them to, the power play has been struggling a little bit. We’re working as lines and pairs to create offense and figure out ways to get some more extended zone time. The looks, probably not as many as we’d like, but they’ve been there.

"We’d love for them to go in. Right now, when they don’t, you just feel like everyone is squeezing a little bit tighter. So it just gets magnified a little bit. We have the faith that we’re going to come out of it and start putting some in."

Parise entered Friday’s game with just three assists. Barzal had one goal and no assists in his last six games. Jean-Gabriel Pageau had gone eight games without a point and had just one goal and three assists this season. Anthony Beauvillier had gone seven games without a point and had three goals and four assists this season. Kyle Palmieri had just one goal and six assists.

The Islanders’ power play went 0-for-6 against the Rangers and had produced just one goal in the team’s previous nine games.

Nelson had accounted for nine of the Islanders’ 32 total goals, and he’s expected to miss two to four weeks.

"You know what will free our minds? A win," coach Barry Trotz said. "We’re in a position where we’ve got to win hockey games. We’ve got to find a way to win hockey games. We’re going to need our goalie to steal a couple of pucks for each game. Our power play has to score a goal. We still have some good players in the lineup. They’re going to have to find ways to get one in."

New York Sports