The climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race remains a long one for the New York Islanders.
But fresh off earning their first point in almost a month, the Islanders will look to make further improvements and snap their nine-game losing streak Saturday night when they visit the Detroit Red Wings.
The Islanders ended their points drought Thursday when they fell to the visiting San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in overtime in Elmont, N.Y.
The Red Wings continued their surprisingly fast start Wednesday night with a 4-3 shootout win over the visiting Seattle Kraken.
The Islanders, whose previous two scheduled games were postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the locker room, finally resembled something close to a full NHL team. Josh Bailey, Andy Greene, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech all returned from protocols. New York, playing its fifth game at UBS Arena, needed just 64 seconds to take its first lead at the new home when Mathew Barzal scored on a semi-breakaway.
But the Islanders, still missing leading scorer Brock Nelson (lower body) and top defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) as well as four players recovering from COVID-19 — Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston are out of protocols but didn’t play while Zdeno Chara and Casey Cizikas remains in the protocols — were outshot 35-24 the rest of the way. New York surrendered the game-winning goal 39 seconds into overtime following a turnover in its zone.
The Islanders, whose nine-game losing streak is the franchise’s longest since a 10-game skid (0-8-2) from Nov. 19 through Dec. 9, 2013, entered Friday 12 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot.
“It’s a long time since we got a point, so we’ll take the point,” head coach Barry Trotz said of the Islanders, whose previous points were earned in a 2-0 win at Winnipeg on Nov. 6. “It’s a step in the right direction. We’re going to try to keep cleaning up our game. I thought we had some good pockets where we were fine and then some pockets where we weren’t so good.”
At the other end of the Eastern Conference spectrum are the Red Wings, who have missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons since their historic run of 25 straight postseason berths ended in 2016-17.
Detroit’s rebuilding effort was expected to continue this season, but a trio of newcomers — goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, left winger Lucas Raymond and defenseman Moritz Seider — may have sped up the timetable for the Red Wings, who entered Friday as the top wild card in the East.
Seider and Raymond earned NHL Rookie of the Month honors in October and November while Nedeljkovic, who was a Calder Trophy finalist with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, is 7-3-3 this season and has won his last three starts.
Raymond, 19, has three goals during Detroit’s current four-game winning streak, including the overtime game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 27.
“Obviously there’s been a real infusion of talent with those three players,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said.
–Field Level Media