Buffalo Sabres defenseman Casey Fitzgerald and New York Islanders center...

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Casey Fitzgerald and New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal vie for the puck during the first period in Buffalo on Feb. 15, 2022.  Credit: AP/Adrian Kraus

At this point, there certainly seems to be too many holes in the Islanders’ game to suggest plugging one or two will prevent the season from sinking further.

The recently completed 1-3-0 road trip further exposed a myriad of issues, including a continued inability to defeat the NHL’s elite, trouble finishing scoring chances, constantly playing without the lead, allowing costly goals late in periods, struggles transporting the puck in order to play quick hockey and, in general, not keeping a consistent level of performance over 60 minutes.

But there are still 39 games remaining, starting on Thursday night against the Bruins at UBS Arena, and just under five weeks to go until the NHL trade deadline on March 21. So a long-shot run at a playoff spot is possible, if unlikely. The Islanders (17-20-6) are 18 points behind the Bruins for the final wild-card spot and have played at least three games fewer than any Eastern Conference team currently holding a playoff position.

"It’s been a disappointing season, the first half of the season for all of us," said Kyle Palmieri, who had his first two-goal effort as an Islander in Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss in Buffalo after being a healthy scratch the two previous games. "Individually, it was time for me to hit the reset button and find a way to help my teammates win hockey games.

"I know it doesn’t look great looking at the standings but until someone says we’re eliminated, we’re going to fight like heck to try and get back in it."

To do so, beating better competition is a must.

The Islanders, who did not practice Wednesday, are just 3-16-2 against teams holding playoff spots and had been outscored 71-36 in those games.

But the Islanders did beat the Bruins, 3-1, at UBS Arena on Dec. 16 as Cal Clutterbuck scored twice, Anthony Beauvillier had a power-play goal and Semyon Varlamov, currently quarantined in Calgary in COVID-19 protocol, made 40 saves and got within 54 seconds of a shutout.

The Islanders pointed to the post-All-Star break schedule, as they returned to a more normal routine of playing essentially every other day and at both home and on the road, as a chance to climb in the standings. But this road trip was a discouraging start to that stretch.

Plus, they have now allowed the first goal in nine of their last 10 games and are 1-17-2 when trailing after two periods, as they did against the Sabres.

"There’s a lot of hockey left in the first period when someone scores the goal so it’s not necessarily the first 40 minutes," captain Anders Lee said. "It’s when we come into these third periods trailing a goal consistently. I think that’s more of a factor than early in the game. It does put you in a tough spot. You’ve got to take risks. You’ve got to put yourselves in a chance to score and a team that executes might have an opportunity because of that."

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