Islanders fixated on next game, not trade deadline or standings
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Islanders have one game remaining before Friday’s NHL trade deadline, and the likelihood is that president/general manager Lou Lamoriello already has made his big move in acquiring Bo Horvat and is not inclined to be a seller with his team in the playoff hunt.
Of course, pages can be filled with incorrect predictions of the secretive Lamoriello’s next move.
But the Islanders can’t be preoccupied with what Lamoriello may or may not have planned when they face the Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. Their only concern is to continue to accumulate points in their uphill battle to maintain an Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
“We’re just worrying about trying to play our game,” coach Lane Lambert said after Sunday afternoon’s 4-0 win over the Jets to open a two-game road trip. “There isn’t anything more than that. We have to move on to the next game and we have to continue to try and win hockey games, which we talked about 13 games ago, when we said we need wins.”
The Islanders (31-25-7, 69 points) have won three of four and four of six and are 8-3-2 in 13 games since Jan. 27. But though they hold the first wild-card spot, the Penguins are two points back and have played four fewer games. The Sabres are three points back and have played five fewer games. The Red Wings are five points back and have played four fewer games.
As a result, every game is virtually a must-win, a tough task with the Islanders playing without key forwards Mathew Barzal (lower body) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (upper body).
Lamoriello could use another scoring wing and defense depth but is thin on organizational assets and top prospects. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, defenseman Scott Mayfield and left wing Zach Parise are impending unrestricted free agents who could bring back significant value. But deleting them from the roster certainly would hurt the Islanders’ playoff chances.
“For us, the main focus is just take care of our job and try to win games and string as many together [as possible],” Brock Nelson said. “You’re going to be scoreboard-watching, for sure. But you don’t want to leave it up to that and cheering for different teams. You want go out there and take care of business.”
Nelson’s beauty of a second-period goal against the Jets gave him a career-high 60 points, one more than last season.
He grew up in Warroad, Minnesota, about six hours from St. Paul. Parise, who grew up in Minneapolis, and Anders Lee, from Edina, Minnesota, were able to enjoy some family time on Monday as the Islanders did not practice.
“I think the guys enjoy going back there to play,” said Parise, who spent nine seasons with the Wild before the final four seasons of his 13-year, $98 million deal were bought out in 2021. “Enjoy this win here [against the Jets] and then really want to get that one. It would be another big win for us so it would be a great road trip.”