Throughout this season, Our Rob Taub will give his preview of the week ahead for the New York Islanders. There will be what to watch for, and one x-factor for both the Isles and the opposing team they face that night.
For how up and down the New York Islanders season has been the past two month, the unanimous feeling among the teams faithful followers, bloggers, and writers is that every week is the biggest week of the season. While that sentiment may be far-fetched, this week for the Isles is undoubtedly the most important stretch of games from a number of standpoints. With how tight the division and wild card race is, the three matchups facing Doug Weight’s crew this week, could be what makes or breaks their year.
Heading in to this week coming off a painful loss — where they blew a 2-0 lead — to the Calgary Flames Sunday night, New York is in dire straights to get at least five or a possible six points, if they want to try to make any movement and start their real push to the playoffs. The next three contests might also be the sticking point for Isles g.m. Garth Snow, as the trade deadline approaches in two weeks.
This will not be an easy task for the Islanders over the next five days. But to start to move away from the conundrum of the Metro, they will need to find a way with the stakes crucially high. Here’s the preview:
Tuesday: vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The Isles commence their big-time week when they face the first of three division opponents — the Blue Jackets — tomorrow night at home. Both teams are right in the thick of the race for a postseason spot. Each club is tied at 60 points, and sit one point out of the final wild card spot, and two points out of the first wild card slot in the Metro.
These two squads aren’t far along from the last time they met, when the Islanders scored a 4-3 win just nine days ago. Jaro Halak was brilliant that night stopping 46 of 49 shots, while the unlikely Brock Nelson potted the game-winner early in the third.
New York knows they will be in for a dogfight, especially with how cramped the standings are. Tuesday’s game marks the final time the Islanders and the Jackets will meet this season, unless they somehow meet in the playoffs. Nick Leddy will be looking to extend his point streak to six games.
Matchup to watch: Artemi Panarin against the Islanders fragile defense.
X-Factors: Boone Jenner, Casey Cizikas
Thursday: vs New York Rangers
Anytime the Islanders and Rangers meet in the second half of the year, the stakes are always raised. And that will be no different Thursday evening. The two rivals have almost taken similar paths this season in terms of good and bad play, and both have been ravaged by injuries to key players.
One of the differences between the two clubs, even heading in to this pivotal affair, is that the Isles seem to take it to the Blueshirts almost every time they face off now. Doug Weight’s troops have taken the first two of the four games with the Rangers this year by an 11-5 margin.
Mathew Barzal introduced himself quickly to the rivalry through the first two games, one where he recorded five-points. So, it could be another big night for the 20-year old sensation. Jaro Halak will try to continue his dominance over Henrik Lundqvist and the cross-town rivals. The Blue and Orange will be looking to make it a perfect 5-0-0 against the Blueshirts since moving to Barclays Center.
Matchup to watch: Special Teams. It’s always one of major determining factors in the outcomes of these games.
X-Factors: Brady Skjei, Ryan Pulock
Friday: at Carolina Hurricanes
New York ends this monster week in Carolina on a back-to-back with the Hurricanes before the weekend. PNC Arena has been somewhat of a house of horrors for the Isles in recent years. And especially coming off a game with the Rangers 24 hours and Carolina also in a back-to-back situations, things could get hairy.
The two teams have split the first two contests with both teams winning on home ice. Friday’s game also could have a major factor in the standings depending on how each team fairs this week.
In the first two games these teams met earlier this season, whoever scored first ended up victorious. So the team that notches the opening goal, could tell how the game will go. The game will also go down in the history books, as it will be the first time in hockey history there will be a Sebastian Aho vs Sebastian Aho matchup.
Matchup to watch: In the face-off dot.
X-Factors: Victor Rask, Andrew Ladd