The New York Islanders aren't thrilled with how they've played lately, but a historic point streak has given them a sizable margin for error -- one the Columbus Blue Jackets will lack Saturday night when they visit the Islanders in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Islanders haven't played since Wednesday night, when they completed a winless three-game West Coast swing by falling to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. The Blue Jackets will be looking to win for the second time in as many nights after earning a 5-2 victory Friday over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
The losing streak is the longest of the season for the Islanders, who lost just four times in their first 20 games and enjoyed a team-record 17-game point streak that ended with a 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday. New York was outscored 9-2 on the trip by the Kings, Ducks and San Jose Sharks.
Of course, coming out of Thanksgiving with the third-highest point percentage in the NHL-- and with four games in hand on the Metropolitan-leading Washington Capitals -- is a pretty good place to be for the Islanders, who reached the second round of the playoffs last spring for just the second time in the last 25 years. But head coach Barry Trotz recognizes New York needs to snap out of its recent funk in order to remain in its rarefied air.
"If you would have said come Thanksgiving and your record is what it is right now, you'd be pretty thankful, it'd be a good Thanksgiving," Trotz told reporters following practice Friday. "You look at how you're playing, we're just not playing consistent enough right now (to) allow us to have sustained success. We might be able to get a game here, a game there, but right now we're not playing as well as we can, and we know that."
Consistency has been an issue for the Blue Jackets, who are 11-10-4 while producing three winning streaks of at least two games and enduring four losing streaks of at least two games. Columbus has alternated wins with losses in each of its last five games.
The hot-and-cold first quarter-plus of the season has left the Blue Jackets in next-to-last place in the Metropolitan Division, 15 points behind the Capitals. Right winger Gustav Nyquist, who collected his second career hat trick Friday, knows any hope of making a surge in the standings rests on Friday marking the beginning of a sustained winning streak for Columbus.
"If we lose (Saturday), it's .500 again," Nyquist said. "So to gain some ground here for us, as a club to be where we want to be in the standings, we've got to win these games."
The Islanders will likely start Thomas Greiss in net against the Blue Jackets, who are expected to counter with rookie backup Elvis Merzlikins after No. 1 netminder Joonas Korpisalo earned the win by recording 29 saves Friday.
Greiss, who has alternated starts all season with Semyon Varlamov, last played Monday, when he made 20 saves against the Ducks. Merzlikins hasn't played since Nov. 23, when he took the loss after stopping 27 shots in the Blue Jackets' 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
--Field Level Media