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.
We’ve hit the first week of February. And for the New York Islanders, their hopes for a return to the postseason comes down to the next two months literally. When Wednesday morning appears, the Isles will have just 60 days to grab a playoff birth.
Doug Weight and Co. should have some extra confidence as a four-game slate is on the marquee this weekend. They snatched two huge points in regulation Saturday night in comeback fashion against the game Columbus Blue Jackets. Those two points in such a mess as the Metropolitan Division shows that every point matters right now.
It’s easy to say that every game for the Isles this week is a must win. But getting points anyway in all of the games this week will help the Isles begin their charge. Here’s a view of the Isles coming week:
Tonight: vs Nashville Predators
The Islanders welcome the Preds to Brooklyn for an intriguing outer-conference tilt later this evening. Nashville has won three of their last four games, including a 5-2 drubbing of the Rangers Saturday night.
New York and Nashville met back in late October, with the Islanders scoring a dominating 6-2 win where John Tavares and Jordan Eberle combined for five goals. Since then, the Preds have launched their way back up in to the upper echelon of the Western Conference and are in a dog fight for the Central Division.
Weight’s crew will have their hands full with Nashville’s defense — which is arguably the best unit in the National Hockey League. Peter Laviolette’s troops are also one of the best road teams in the game. The Isles will look be looking for their second win in a row.
Matchup to watch: New York’s high-octane offense against the Predators vaunted defense.
X-Factors: Kevin Fiala, Andrew Ladd
Thursday: at Buffalo Sabres
It will be another back-to-back situation for the Isles when they travel to Buffalo later this week for a game with the lowly-Sabres. Thursday’s game, marks the second of three back-to-backs for New York in the first three weeks of this month.
New York will be looking for the season sweep of the Sabres, as they’ve been victorious in the first two matchups — the first being opening night, and the other the first game after the Christmas break. Dating back to the 2014-15 season, the Islanders have had Buffalo’s number.
Buffalo always seems to get up for the Isles when they come to KeyBank Center, so New York will have to break their habit of playing down to their competition. John Tavares has five points in two games versus the Sabres this season.
Matchup to watch: The Islanders 3rd-ranked offense against the Sabres 31st ranked offense.
X-Factors: Jack Eichel, Anders Lee
Friday: vs Detroit Red Wings
On the second half of their back-to-back, the Islanders come back home for another big game against the lowly Red Wings. Back on December 19th, the Wings stunned the Isles 6-3 in the first matchup between the two clubs this year. They will meet for the final time on the last day of the regular season.
Detroit — who is one of the worst teams in the league — still has that pesky nature to them, led by Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and the ageless Henrik Zetterberg. The Islanders will also have to zero in on Mike Green, who always seems to raise his game anytime the blue and orange are the opposition.
Matchup to watch: In the faceoff circle. Both teams are just one spot apart in the bottom of the league.
X-Factors: Andreas Anthanasiou, Cal Clutterbuck
Sunday: vs Calgary Flames
Their won’t be another emotional game that eclipses the game the Islanders will play to end this week against the Calgary Flames. Reason why, is it’s the return of defensemen Travis Hamonic who spent seven season with the Isles before he was traded at the draft last year.
Hamonic’s club is similar to his former club, in they are filled with speed and young, good scorers. Calgary has struggled to really take off this year, as they are still trying to wiggle their way up the Pacific Division standings for a second straight playoff appearance. Both teams on the outside looking in, could make for a high-spirited affair.
Jordan Eberle — who knows the Flames well from his time in Edmonton — has 30 points in 33 games against Calgary.
Matchup to watch: The Isles top line versus the Flames top line.
X-Factors: Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Pulock