The weight of the Islanders’ desperate standings situation, excuse the pun, feels heaviest to coach Doug Weight when he scans the results of the other games around the NHL.
“It zaps you, I think, at night before you go to bed when you see the other teams winning,” Weight said. “But, sooner or later, teams are playing each other and not every game is going to be a three-point game. You can close gaps quick. The season is close to the end but we’re digging in and trying to win.”
The Islanders, eight points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot at the start of play on Wednesday, open a home-and-home against the Capitals on back-to-back nights on Thursday at Barclays Center. They did not practice on Wednesday.
Weight said before Sunday’s 5-2 win at Calgary, which concluded a 1-0-3 road trip and snapped an 0-4-4 slide, that his team likely needed to win 11 more games to be in the playoff conversation.
The Islanders, who have managed to win consecutive games just twice so far in 2018, play nine of their remaining 13 at home.
More to Weight’s point, the Islanders have seven games left against Metropolitan Division opponents, plus a game against the Panthers, who started play on Wednesday three points out of the last wild-card spot.
So, in a way, the Islanders still can determine their own fate.
Provided, essentially, that they don’t lose at all.
Or play past regulation and allow their opponent a loser’s point.
“It’s been kind of an ironic three weeks because we feel we’re doing a lot of good things,” Weight said. “To our own fault, we’re not in the position where we have the luxury of doing good things and not getting results. That’s kind of how it’s gone. Having said that, the last four games, those are some results. We’ve got to find ways to get two points.”
Goalie Christopher Gibson’s play was among the best developments of the just-completed road trip.
He made 50 saves against the Flames to help the Islanders end their eight-game losing streak but also made 35 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss at Edmonton this past Thursday. Connor McDavid scored the equalizer on a deflection off defenseman Brandon Davidson’s stick at 18:10 of the third period. Gibson also stopped 47 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on March 3.
“He’s been more than good, really,” Weight said. “He’s looked very comfortable and confident. Those are two really good words when you’re talking about goalies because your team feeds off of that.”
Weight did not announce a starter for Thursday night’s game after the team’s practice on Tuesday, but Gibson is the likely choice, though back-to-back games could alter those plans.
The 25-year-old Gibson is 1-0-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage this season but has just seven NHL appearances overall and missed all but seven games last season with a knee injury.