Heading into a three-game home series against the Buffalo Sabres, the Islanders have a real shot at holding a first-place lead in the MassMutual East Division. Currently two points ahead of the Boston Bruins, Mathew Barzal and Co. could tie the leading Washington Capitals tonight with a win this evening.
If the Islanders pull off a sweep at home, they have a shot at extending a strong lead on the rest of the division. It would be an incredible turnaround from just over a month ago where the team found themselves at the bottom of the East after a rough start to the season.
“It’s different for sure, but I think for us we’re just focusing on the first game tonight and getting off to a good start,” Noah Dobson said this morning. “Just focus on the first period tonight and go from there. It’s obviously going to be different, but I think we’re just focused on the first game.”
In the last ten games, the Islanders hold a 7-2-1 record, dropping only two games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Buffalo, on the other hand, is on a four-game losing streak. They’ve lost eight of their last ten, including three to the Isles already. The start of this three-game series will be the second time in franchise history that the team will face an opponent in three straight games.
“I think it’s just the same, two in a row,” Cal Clutterbuck said about playing Buffalo consecutively. “The further you go down the line Game 2, you’re going to have things to break down from Game 1. We played them a couple of times recently so we have a tape to look at there. I think it just comes down to who can stay the course longer, who can play their game longer and who can be better for long stretches of time without getting complacent.”
While a victory tonight could be a turning point for the Islanders on their journey towards solidifying their spot in an East Division that has four, five teams fighting for positioning, head coach Barry Trotz is keeping his plans for the lineup under tight wraps. As of yet, Trotz hasn’t revealed any indication of who will take on the starting lineups or even who will be between the pipes.
In order to take the division and keep the Islanders’ road to the playoffs on track, they can’t be willing to secede any points to the Sabres.
This series kicks off a five-game homestand, as the Isles are scheduled to face the Bruins again on March 9th and the Devils on the 11th.
The Islanders must maintain their status as the only NHL team that has yet to drop a game in regulation on home ice.
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