Jordan Eberle knows making the declaration now sounds a little crazy.
But given the Islanders’ paucity of home games in the early-season schedule and the long breaks in between contests, the right wing believes there’s extra urgency against the Panthers on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
“These are huge points and [Wednesday] is a must-win in my opinion,” Eberle said after Tuesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “I know it’s game No. 8 and you don’t want to put a lot of emphasis and start thinking about that, but it’s a must-win for us.
The Islanders (3-4-0) completed a 1-3-0 road trip with a 4-1 loss at San Jose last Saturday night and, after Wednesday, do not play again until starting a three-game road trip Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Eight of the Islanders’ first 11 games are on the road and the players have yet to get into their preferred rhythm of practice-game-practice-game as they’ve already had a four-day break in the schedule and two three-day breaks.
Eberle’s point is that the team needs to create its own traction without a heavier workload.
“It’s definitely been a tougher schedule to start than I’ve had in my career,” said Eberle, in his second season with the Islanders after seven with the Oilers. “We’ve been playing a lot of road games and we’ve been playing against good teams.”
The Islanders have already completed their home-and-home series with the Predators and Sharks, both expected to be among the top Western Conference squads.
“Every team we’ve played against is what you consider a playoff team,” defenseman Thomas Hickey said. “That’s the good part of it. The bad part is when you have four days between a game, you might lose your game legs a little bit. You’re almost easing your way into the game, just defending and playing smart whereas it’s not really instinctual like when you’re playing three games in four nights or playing every other night for a month, which is what everyone would prefer.”
In November, the Islanders have no more than two days in between games.
Notes & quotes: Right wing Josh Bailey (tightness) missed practice after leaving Monday’s practice early. But coach Barry Trotz said he “fully” expects Bailey to be in Wednesday’s lineup. “It’s one of those nagging injuries versus a substantial injury,” Trotz said … Left wing Anthony Beauvillier said he is “back to 100 percent” after sitting out Saturday’s loss with an illness … Hickey is wearing a faceguard after taking a puck to the mouth on the first shift on Saturday, which has left him needing repeated dental work to try and save some teeth, then having his visor mashed into his upper lip three shifts later, which required stitches.