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.
The trade deadline in the National Hockey League has now passed, and the New York Islanders are basically no worse for the wear. Garth Snow made his usual “low key” moves adding Brandon Davidson from the Oilers and trading the struggling Jason Chimera to Anaheim for another bottom-six forward, Chris Wagner.
Aside from the deadline, the Isles are in major need of some wins, just to get the confidence going again. New York salvaged just one point over the last three games, where there was at least four or five points for the taking. Still — at the moment — the Isles are only two points out of the last place in the wild card in the Metro, so the three games on the marquee this week are MUST, MUST wins.
The Islanders season — as over the past two weeks — could come down to the results over the next six days. But once they complete their game in Pittsburgh Saturday night, there will only 16 games remaining in the regular season, so it’s now or never for the blue and orange when it comes to their playoff push.
Here’s a look at the critical week for the blue and orange:
Wednesday: at Montreal Canadiens
After getting a mini four day break from the ice, the Islanders will play the first of their all-important three games the middle of this week in Montreal. The Habs season is basically over as they are at the bottom of the East and the Atlantic Division, so they could play the spoiler role when the Islanders come calling. This will be the first of a home-and-home for both teams, as they meet back in Brooklyn Friday evening.
The Isles and Habs have only met once this season back in mid-January. New York escaped Bell Centre with a 5-4 win on overtime in which Thomas Greiss faced over 50+ shots. Mathew Barzal recorded three points that night, while his linemates — Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier — both recorded points.
Montreal just traded their longtime forward Tomas Plekanec to Toronto and Carey Price is out indefinitely, so the Isles will definitely be seeing a much different Canadiens squad.
Matchup to watch: The Power Play. Montreal sits 12th on the man-advantage, while New York ranks one spot ahead in 11th.
X-Factors: Paul Byron, Anthony Beauvillier
Friday: vs Montreal Canadiens
New York will welcome the Max Paccioretty led Habs to Barclays Center for the first time Friday night to complete the home-and-home. The Islanders went 1-1 against Montreal at home last season. And as of late, the Isles have really struggled on home ice, winning just four of their 13 games at home.
Montreal supports one of the worst road records in the NHL at 8-19-2, so it’s imperative the Islanders take advantage. And with the Isles bleeding for points and finally get on the right track at home for their playoff push, getting anything but two points is unacceptable.
Matchup to watch: Faceoffs. Both these clubs rank in the bottom six of the league in this category.
X-Factors: David Schlemko, Thomas Hickey
Saturday: at Pittsburgh Penguins
It will be a very quick turnaround — 22 hours to be exact — for the Islanders when they take the ice in Pittsburgh for a late matinee Saturday afternoon. New York will be coming off a matchup from the night before with Montreal straight in to a massive division showdown. Saturday will be the third of four meetings between the Pens and Isles, with the Penguins victorious in both games, one in a shootout back in December and a shutout in January.
The Penguins are as hot as any team in the NHL right now since the beginning of January. Their home record is staggering and they currently find themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division. They added Derick Brassard at the deadline, to go along with their heavy arsenal of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Patrik Hornqvist.
New York has struggled in the Steel City over the past few seasons, and this weekend will be a very tough task with the time in between games from the night earlier, and the fact that they’ve had difficulty winning on the road.
Matchup to watch: Who scores more goals. These two teams boast the two deepest top-six groups in the league.
X-Factors: Phil Kessel, Anders Lee