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.
What a wild week it was this past seven days for the New York Islanders. Filled with a disturbing loss from blowing a 2-0 lead, fans calling for both Garth Snow and Doug Weight’s head, to angry supporters funding billboards to send a message to ownership, just to have their overflow of donations be rejected by Anders Lee, to back-to-back shutouts of the Rangers and Hurricanes, things could not have gotten anymore crazy in Islanders Country. You would assume all those distractions would have been the undoing of the club, but that’s not the case as the Isles do sit in a playoff spot as the week begins tomorrow.
Even holding the final wild card spot at the moment, the lunacy from last week could continue in to the next seven days, mainly with the trade deadline next Monday afternoon. The lead up to the deadline is always fun, but add that to essential points up for grabs, and the Isles have a recipe for unknown.
With under seven weeks left in the season, the Islanders still don’t know what the future has in store, but this week could be very telling of the direction they will be heading. All in all, the times will be getting more hectic, and it all starts tomorrow on home ice. The preview of the Isles slate can be found here:
Monday: vs Minnesota Wild
The Islanders will host the Wild in an outer-conference showdown tomorrow in their traditional President’s Day matinee. New York has won two in a row, while the Wild are coming off a 5-2 loss to Washington, followed by a 3-2 OT shootout loss to the Ducks Saturday night. These two teams met back in the first month of the season, with the Wild scoring a decisive 6-4 victory.
Minnesota — similar to the Islanders — has had a up-and-down campaign, but are still right in the thick of the playoff race in the Central Division. Forward Eric Staal has had a fantastic season notching 52 points in 58 games, while another forward, Jason Zucker is having a career year. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk is also enjoying a stellar campaign.
For the Isles, they will record just their fifth win at home since the beginning of January and their first winning streak at home since late December.
Matchup to watch: Minnesota’s 11th ranked man-advantage against the Islanders 30th best penalty kill.
X-Factors: Nino Niederreiter, Brock Nelson
Thursday: at Toronto Maple Leafs
Later in the week, the Isles will head to Ontario with some revenge on their minds as they face the red-hot Maple Leafs. John Tavares and crew were embarrassed by the Leafs 5-0 back on January 31st at Air Canada Centre. Toronto has won the last the last two matchups between the two clubs.
The Leafs have been one of the best teams in the NHL in the month of February, led by the fantastic play of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Patrick Marleau. On home ice, Toronto has won six straight. Shutting that trio down and the rest of the vaunted Leafs attack could be a daunting task for the Islanders.
Going the other way, the Isles will be trying to make it two wins in a row on the road since mid-January. They will also look for their first win at the ACC since January 2016. Thursday’s game will also mark another homecoming for John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
Matchup to watch: Offense, and nothing else. These two teams can score and score in bunches.
X-Factors: Zach Hyman, Nick Leddy
Saturday: at New Jersey Devils
New York will make their way across the Hudson for their first trip to New Jersey against the Devils Saturday night. Saturday will mark the third of the four times the Islanders and Devils will have met this year, with both teams having one win a piece. The weekend affair will also feature the retirement of Patrik Elias’ number 26 to the rafters.
Since the teams met back in mid-January, the Devils have been driven by the absurd play of Taylor Hall, who has recorded a point in a Devils franchise-record 18 straight games. New Jersey has found themselves decimated in goal, but have gotten good contributions from backups Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack. John Hynes’s troops are right in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot in the Metro.
The Islanders have dominated the Devils at Prudential Center over the past couple of seasons, so they know the building very well. It should be another playoff type atmosphere for both teams, and the contest could have major implications. Anders Lee — who has two goals in the first two games against New Jersey — will look to make it three goals during the season series.
Matchup to watch: Face-offs. Both teams rank toward the bottom of the league.
X-Factors: Brian Boyle, Casey Cizikas