SAN JOSE, Calif. — In the NHL, California swings are never easy. The travel is long from the East Coast, there’s a three-hour time difference to get used to and all three teams typically play a big, physical game.
All things considered, though, this one sets up as favorably as possible for the Islanders, who will attempt to extend their franchise-record streak of 16 consecutive games with at least a point (15-0-1) on Saturday night against the Sharks at SAP Center.
“This is my third year, and the first years that I was part of it, we played like three games in four nights,” said right wing Jordan Eberle, who was acquired from the Oilers before the 2017-18 season. “Flying all that way, you only have time to get adjusted and then you’re playing so quickly. This year, we actually have a little bit of time. We only play every second day, which is a good rhythm.”
The Islanders (16-3-1), who did not practice on Friday before departing for the West Coast and the season’s first extended road trip, will play in Anaheim on Monday night and Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
“[The California trip] is always the one you kind of check out when it’s going to happen,” said center Brock Nelson, who scored the overtime winner both in Thursday night’s 4-3 victory over the Penguins in Brooklyn and in Tuesday night’s 5-4 victory in Pittsburgh. “But it’s a tough trip going out there and playing teams that are tough and in tough buildings.”
The Islanders lost 4-1 decisions in both Anaheim and San Jose last season, their first under coach Barry Trotz, as they played three games in four nights. That trip started in Nashville and was the Islanders’ first of the season, just their fifth through seventh games.
The Islanders also went to California early the previous season for their fourth through sixth games and played three games in five nights. They lost 3-2 decisions in both Anaheim and Los Angeles sandwiched around a win over the Sharks.
This time, though, the Islanders do not have any back-to-back games on the trip, are a quarter of the way through their 82-game schedule and have won five straight games.
“Right now, we’re in a rhythm,” Eberle said. “We’re kind of solidified into the season, so that will help, too.”
Facing the Sharks will be no easy task. Though the Ducks, Sharks and Kings are fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, in the Pacific Division, the Sharks are on a 7-3-0 streak and had a five-game home winning streak snapped in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Oilers.
“I think the California swing will be good for us,” said center Mathew Barzal, who had two assists on Thursday to give him three goals and five assists in his last six games. “It’s nice to get on the road every once in a while. We’ve been feeling really good at home, being in the rhythm. I think it’ll be nice to get out of our comfort zone a little bit.”
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